Environmental & Public Health Impacts of Frac Sand Mining

Frac sand is used to produce oil and gas in a process known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” The growth of Wisconsin’s frac sand mining industry accelerated significantly starting around 2010. By 2014, Wisconsin had become the nation’s leading producer of frac sand. Since then, the industry has experienced dramatic economic downturn, but the environmental and public health impacts of frac sand mining remain a significant concern in Wisconsin.


The environmental and public health impacts of frac sand mining, called "fracking," are a significant concern in Wisconsin.

Air Quality

Frac sand mines and processing facilities emit air pollutants such as fine particulate matter that may include crystalline silica dust. Fine particulate matter travels deep into the lungs and causes serious respiratory and cardiovascular problems and studies show that this dust causes cancer in mine workers. Particulate matter made of crystalline silica causes silicosis, a deadly and incurable lung disease.

Water Quality & Quantity

Frac sand mines and processing facilities pump and use large quantities of groundwater for mining and processing sand. This may lower water levels in nearby wells and surface waters.

Chemicals like polyacrylamide, which are used in the sand washing process, may cause surface water and groundwater pollution. 

Threatened and Endangered Species 

As a high-impact, landscape-scale industry, frac sand mining can impact a variety of threatened and endangered species. The primary species of concern is the Karner blue butterfly. Its habitat overlaps a great deal with land used for frac sand mining. The majority of facilities are not participating in the state plan to prevent harm to this species.


Wetlands are common throughout our water rich state and are critical to protect water quality, prevent flooding, and provide habitat for numerous species. Frac sand mines may fill in wetlands for construction or harm water quality in wetlands.

Quality of Life

Frac sand mines and processing facilities dramatically affect life in rural areas. Constant noise, light, train and truck traffic, vibrations from blasting, dust and water pollution turn quiet rural communities into industrial areas.