A Neillsville-area sand and gravel company agreed to pay the Wisconsin Department of Justice, DOJ, $30,000 for operating its quarries without storm water discharge permits and other related storm water violations for several years.
Opelt Sand & Gravel LLC, headed by Michael Opelt, operates the Kranda and Opelt pits and a gravel washing facility in the town of Levis, south of Neillsville, near highways 95 and 73. Michael Opelt also owns G&S Trucking of Neillsville.
State statutes regulate runoff from the company’s sand mining operations to surface or ground waters. Regulations require the company to annually apply for a discharge permit, include reports of the water volume and type of pollutant discharged from each pit and how it would prevent storm water pollutants from reaching state waters.
According to a complaint filed in Clark County Circuit Court, Opelt S&G failed to file required discharge reports from 1999 to 2009 in violation of state statutes. It also failed to collect and submit quarterly and annual water samples for volume amounts, type of pollutants present and known additives from its pits and concrete plant. The company also did not submit annual pollution prevention plans from 2000 to 2012.
The company also violated state statutes by constructing a sediment retention pond within 200 feet of the Black River without approval.
There have been no known unlawful discharges in recent years, according to a DOJ news release.
Opelt met with a Department of Natural Resources, DNR, storm water specialist in June 2010 and admitted the company had not collected any water samples at either pit for the annual permits for some time.
Water samples DNR staff members collected on three August days in 1999 exceeded the allowed amount of suspended solids in runoff by three, five and 10 times permitted levels, according to the complaint.
Fishermen complained to the DNR about Opelt’s muddy discharge in the Black River since the 1980s, and it took the company “a long time” to adopt gravel washing practices that retains more sediment on site, said Bradley Johnson, a DNR storm water specialist in Wausau.
“To their credit, once they began working with us, they’ve cleaned up their act ... have been complying with reporting and permitting regulations,” Johnson said.
Opelt’s attorney, Charles Sweeney, said confusion regarding whether Clark County or the DNR has jurisdiction over runoff prevented his client from fully complying with the law.
“It’s not easy thing for a small company to understand when there are sets of regulations for reclamation administered by the county, but because the land was near a navigable body of water, DNR regulations applied.
“(Opelt) had been working with the county, but after they understood the complexity involved, (they) have worked things and are in compliance,” Sweeney said.
The company agreed to make $10,000 payments in August in each of the next three years, according to a stipulation that Circuit Judge Jon Counsell approved recently.