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DNR reports elevated levels of toxins at frac mine spill, no fish kills



Tests just released by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources have found elevated levels of toxic heavy metals near a frack sand mine spill that sent millions of gallons of sludge into a Trempealeau River tributary.

DNR test results released late Wednesday show high levels of arsenic and other contaminants at the source of a spill at the Hi-Crush mine near Whitehall in western Wisconsin. The mine drained 10 million gallons of sandy, silty sludge to rescue a contractor whose bulldozer slid into a pond last month.

The bulldozer operator was trapped in his airtight cab for 2 1/2 hours while emergency workers fought frantically to get him out.  He emerged unharmed after the pond was drained.  

Testing near the spill shows arsenic nearly seven times the allowable levels for drinking water. Lead was measured at 10 times allowable levels. Levels are lower downstream.

The orange sand mixture flowed quickly down the Trempealeau and reached the Mississippi two days after the accident.

DNR spokesman Jim Dick says the department has observed no fish kills and that oxygen levels there can support aquatic life.

Hi-Crush is cleaning up the spill.  Initially, the company said the material that flowed out of the pond was mostly water, silt, clay and sand, though it could contain trace amounts of a polyacrylamide, used to remove silt from the water.

Employer of the man who was rescued has been cited for the accident.  

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