Komatsu Mining leaked 400 gallons of oil into Milwaukee waterways, claims cleanup obligation met
In early December of 2021 as many were celebrating the holiday season, a major event happened in Milwaukee. 400 gallons of oil drained into the Menomonee River, after an accident at Komatsu Mining Corp on the city’s south side. The oil began to saturate the water, ending up in the Milwaukee River before anyone from the city was made aware of what happened.
"Initially it was thought to be a minor spill of some waste oil on the property. It was learned, not long after, that it was a major oil spill. 400 gallons into a sewer drain that led directly into the Menomonee River. Komatsu did what it was required by law to do, immediately contacting the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but it didn't go beyond that and that's the issue here," says Rich Rovito, who wrote about the spill for Milwaukee Magazine.
The City of Milwaukee wasn't made aware of the spill until residents noticed a thick oil sheen on top of the water and reported it to the city.
Rovito explains, "The lack of immediate communication allowed this oil spill to travel from the Menomonee River downstream to the Milwaukee River, into the KK [Kinnikinnick] River and into the tributaries leading to Lake Michigan."
Rovito says that since the revelation of the spill, Komatsu has been "relatively upfront" about what happened and has admitted they failed to properly communicate with the city. Since then, Komatsu claims to have completed their cleanup obligation, by attempting to clean up as much of the oil as possible. Wildlife has been damaged, injuring at least a few birds which became coated in oil. But the extent of the problem remains unknown at this time and may emerge in the water life, like fish and plants, this spring.
Furthermore, Rovito is unaware of any attempt by the company to inform the surrounding communities of the possible dangers posed by the oil leak.
"At this point, I've not been informed that any [public awareness campaign] has gone on. Most of the communication that Komatsu did was on their website and it took a little bit - even for a seasoned reporter like myself - to find these statements on their website," says Rovito.