Hi-Crush incident update - metals release into river

The recent rescue incident at the Hi-Crush facility in Whitehall released 10 million gallons of (primarily) water, silt, clay, and sand from a retaiing pond at the site. The release flowed through a local creek and into the Trempealeau river, depositing silt and mud on local farmers fields in the process. Hi-Crush has been removing the silt from the farms and other properties in the path, a process that is expected to continue for several weeks. 

The state DNR has now released an analysis of the water that spillled from the facility. The spill greatly increased the turbidity of the river where the silt entered, and also greatly increased the amount of several toxic metals, including a very high level of aluminum in the water (over 1000 times the acceptable level in drinking water). The analysis also found elevated levels of beryllium, cadmium, lead, arsenic, and other contaminants. The water was very murky when it entered the Trempealeau and had high levels of the contaminants, but was quickly diluted to a level that would not be acceptible for drinking water but met levels of cointamination considered acceptable in surface water. There was no evidence of noticeable fish kills, and the water at all times held acceptable levels of oxygen. 

Allthough there were concerns after the spill about the possiible contamination with polyacrylimide (used as a flocculant to settle the silt from washing sand) the primary elements found in the silt were mostly from the process of washing the sand being mined. The DNR has collected later samples from the water and will analyze that at a later time. For the time being there is no reason to suspect any long-term ill effects from the spill. 

Federal mine safety officials have charged the contractor operating the earth moving equipment at the facility. Operator Robbie Gunderson was operating the CAT equipment at the sand-washing facility when it fell into the pond, trapping him for over two hours in a water-tight cab. MSHA found that the area around the pond was not constructed to standards to support heavy earth-moving equipment and found contractor Gerke moderately negligent. The contractor may appeal this decision. No fine has been set at this time.

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PDF icon Initial DNR analysis of spill27.61 KB

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Published on

June 8, 2018

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