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Wisconsin landowners sue frac sand mines over health impact

Posted at 5:47 PM, May 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-03 18:47:32-04

WHITEHALL, Wis. (AP) — Forty landowners in western Wisconsin are suing two frac sand mines that they claim are inundating their homes with dust, polluting their wells with sediment and driving down property values.

Four separate lawsuits have been filed against Texas-based Hi-Crush’s facilities in Whitehall and Blair, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. The sites mine sand for use in the energy industry’s fracking process, which extracts oil and gas from rock.

La Crosse attorney Tim Jacobson, who represents the landowners, said neighbors are facing air and water pollution as well as negative health effects from living near the noisy and dirty environment.

“They can’t open their windows in their homes because their homes get inundated with silica dust,” Jacobson said.

He added that there’s been a significant decrease in the landowners’ property values.

The landowners were seeking monetary compensation, including a fund to provide medical testing and treatment, if needed.

Both of Hi-Crush’s frac sand mines in Trempealeau County were located in townships until they were annexed by Whitehall, Blair and the city of Independence. The change lead to local oversight of the mines coming from cities that are miles away from where the operations are located.

Jacobson said the landowners have unsuccessfully attempted to challenge the mines through local government officials and state agencies.

“And really the only mechanism left in our system of government and system of law is private property rights,” Jacobson said.

Hi-Crush spokesman Steve Bell said the company works to adhere to all local regulations and agreements. Bell said the company values environmental stewardship and being a good neighbor.

Bell said Hi-Crush plans to fight the claims.