"DNR also doesn't require monitoring of something called fine particulate matter, or PM2.5 for short. That's a measurement for particles 2.5 micrometers and smaller - smaller than the width of human hair - that are common in industrial sites. PM2.5 can come from different kinds of substances - sand, carbon and diesel exhaust, you name it.
Dr. Crispin Pierce of the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire has been measuring PM2.5 levels at 15 Wisconsin frac sand sites over the last five years. As frac sand mining, processing and everything that comes with it, such as truck and train traffic, have increased, so too have the levels of fine particulate matter.
While the federal Environmental Protection Agency suggests that levels remain below 12, some sites had levels up to 50. The EPA and World Health Organization are both concerned about PM2.5 levels because they can easily get into lungs, potentially causing heart and respiratory problems. "The levels we're measuring around frac sand plants . . . are higher than backgrounds levels," Pierce tells Truthout. "We're concerned about the long-term health effects, cardiovascular risk, bronchitis and things like that."
DNR only requires companies to monitor emission of bigger particulates, not PM2.5. And Pierce says that only 10 percent of companies are actually required by the DNR to comply with these weak regulations.
The DNR's foot-dragging is the result of poor leadership and gutted laws. Cathy Stepp was appointed DNR Secretary in 2010, despite having previously called the agency "anti-development
, anti-transportation, and pro-garter snakes" and having toured Wisconsin as a state senator as part of a legislative committee seeking out criticism of the DNR.
According to the agency website,"
Stepp notes her administration is concentrating on . . . simplifying permitting to accomplish Gov. Scott Walker's goals to create jobs in Wisconsin." For his part, in 2013, Walker signed a mining law, AB1/SB1, which significantly lessens environmental regulations, expedites mining permitting and diminishes DNR oversight. The law has allowed companies to receive mining permits they otherwise wouldn't have, had older, more stringent regulations been in effect."