Jeramey Jannene

Spill Sends 400 Gallons of Oil Into Milwaukee Waterways

"Oil transfer error" at Komatsu Mining campus.

By - Dec 10th, 2021 11:33 am
A sewer outlet on the Menomonee River near the Komatsu Mining campus. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A sewer outlet on the Menomonee River near the Komatsu Mining campus. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A cleanup operation is underway on Milwaukee’s waterways after an “oil transfer error” last Friday.

The estimated 400-gallon spill occurred at Komatsu Mining‘s facility on W. National Ave. in West Milwaukee, with the resulting discharge making its way into an on-site storm sewer and into the Menomonee River.

“On Friday, Dec. 3, our staff at our Joy Global facility on W. National Ave. became aware of what we thought at that time was a relatively small spill of waste oil from a container. Upon learning of this spill, we immediately began cleanup procedures and reported the matter to the state Department of Natural Resources and the regional staff of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” Komatsu said in a statement.

“On Dec. 4, the DNR was notified of a petroleum sheen on the Menomonee River in Milwaukee,” said the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in a statement. The state agency is assisting with the investigation of the spill.

The nonprofit Milwaukee Riverkeeper organization reports that a sheen has been spotted on both the Menomonee and Milwaukee rivers. That includes, as a result of wind, locations upstream of the two rivers’ confluence in the Historic Third Ward. Komatsu said it has also seen, and responded to, reports of a sheen being spotted on the Kinnickinnic River to the south.

A storm sewer cleanout was completed Thursday and absorbent, containment booms were placed in the Menomonee River. Komatsu, which contracted a “national spill response team,” is also using a boat and vacuum truck to remove oil. “Cleanup efforts will continue Friday and through the weekend, as necessary,” the DNR said in a statement.

“We are monitoring any and all reported impacts to area wildlife and waterways and plan to support necessary care required through monetary donations to the care agencies involved,” said Komatsu. “We sincerely regret this unfortunate accident occurred and want to apologize to the Milwaukee and Wisconsin community for any harm that has been caused. We are devoting all necessary resources toward an aggressive and complete remediation effort to resolve the situation as quickly as possible and we are committed to determining the root cause to ensure such an incident does not happen again.”

The mining equipment manufacturer’s campus, which it intends to vacate next year for the new South Harbor Campus facility, is directly south of the Menomonee River. It is also the first property west of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District‘s combined sewer area. If the spill occurred in a combined sewer it would have been routed to the Jones Island treatment plant instead of directly into the waterway.

Categories: Environment, Weekly

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