Clean-up effort at Jackson County frac mine spill

By: - September 2, 2019 7:00 am

A culvert in the town of Curran last week after a frac sand mine spill courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

A clean-up effort is underway after a frac sand mine pumped some 400,000 gallons of sediment into Jackson County’s Curran Creek. The creek, which also flows into the Trempealeau River, has been receiving treatment from the mine’s owner, Wisconsin Proppants, since a pump malfunctioned on August 3.

“Wisconsin Proppants is in the midst of gently flushing the wetland to remove the solids that are mobile,” Andrew Savagian of the DNR’s office of communications wrote in an email to Wisconsin Examiner. “The mobilized sediment is then intercepted there, at Garfield Road, and pumped back into the pit.” Savagain said. “We do not think there were any impacts to fish or wildlife.”

Nevertheless, some local residents may see the incident as an example of the negative impact of frac mine operations. Residents in La Crosse County recently lost a court battle against an Iowa-based company, AllEnergy Hixton. The company is pushing for a $130 million project, which residents of the town of Hixton feel will harm their land and property.

A three-judge panel decided the families did not provide enough evidence to back up their claims. According to Wisconsin State Journal, AllEnergy Hixton president Dean Sukowatey argued, “No two mines are ever alike. You can’t transpose facts from this mine to that mine.” Two other lawsuits involving Jackson County projects are currently underway.

Environmental groups including the Wisconsin River Alliance and Sierra Cub have long pointed out the dangers posed by mining in sensitive ecosystems. Wisconsin has a dwindling number of vital wetlands, swamps, and water systems throughout the state. Such ecosystems are also crucial in Wisconsin’s water and hunting economies.


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Isiah Holmes
Isiah Holmes

Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, the Progressive Magazine, Al Jazeera, and other outlets. He was also featured in the 2018 documentary The Chase Key, and was the recipient of the Sierra Club Great Waters Group 2021 Environmental Hero of the Year award. The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council also awarded Holmes its 2021-2022 Media Openness Award for using the open records laws for investigative journalism. Holmes was also a finalist in the 2021 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards alongside the rest of the Wisconsin Examiner's staff. The Silver, or second place, award for Best Online Coverage of News was awarded to Holmes and his colleague Henry Redman for an investigative series into how police responded to the civil unrest and protests in Kenosha during 2020. Holmes was also awarded the Press Club's Silver (second-place) award for Public Service Journalism for articles focusing on police surveillance in Wisconsin.