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Milwaukee oil spill updates

Public update - Jan. 5, 2022

Our crews have been able to remove an estimated 90-95% of oil sheen from Milwaukee’s waterways and we remain vigilant in our daily patrol and recovery efforts of any remaining visible sheen resulting from the accidental oil spill that occurred December 3 at our Joy Global facility on W. National Ave. Our cleanup work continues.

When we initially created and implemented our cleanup action plan, we knew that winter weather, safety and waterway logistics would be challenges to our work. However, due to a warmer than usual December, we had the opportunity to continue our work on the water for longer than we had initially anticipated and worked hard to leverage each additional day.

During this past month of remediation:

  • Our crews recovered more than 13,000 gallons of water and oil sheen
  • 146 absorbent booms were also used to recover oil sheens

While they were out there, our crews also recovered 93 bags of trash, debris and other materials from Milwaukee’s waterways.

Now that colder temperatures have set in, our daily cleanup efforts are continuing, adapted to the weather, and we are keeping in mind the safety of the crews performing the work. Our crews continue to do daily visual inspections of the water to look for areas for remediation, address cleanup spots when possible, and document environmental impacts and weather conditions to determine the best action steps available on each given day.

As an adjustment to the colder temperatures, some absorbent booms have been removed to ensure they do not break down in the water. We are closely monitoring the locations where booms remain in place to determine how long they can remain in use and when those may also need to be removed because of weather conditions. We are no longer deploying boats at this time because of the weather but will be ready to mobilize them again if further action is necessary and the weather conditions allow.

We continue to stay in contact with and coordinate with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and we remain committed to working with the WDNR, as the Department has been actively engaged throughout the cleanup process.

We remain thankful to the members of the public and community groups who have sent in updates and reports on areas of potential sheen for our crews to respond. To report any areas of concern, we encourage direct messages to our @KomatsuMining Facebook page.

We sincerely regret that this incident occurred and are committed to supporting the cleanup. Internal procedural changes have already been made and we continue to look at ways to improve through additional training, enhanced procedures, engineering and institutional controls.

Public update - Dec. 22, 2021

We estimate we have cleaned 85-90% of the oil sheen on Milwaukee’s waterways and our crews continue to make daily progress, following the Dec. 3 oil spill from a container at our Joy Global facility on W. National Ave. In our team’s status report Dec. 21, the cleanup effort’s Emergency Response Team Director reported “a dramatic decrease since last Thursday” in identified areas of oil concentration and that our crews have recovered thousands of gallons of water and sheen thus far.

On a daily basis, groups of employees and volunteers are walking the waterways to continue looking for areas of residue. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and others in the community are assisting with identifying spots, which we then respond to leveraging several techniques at our disposal, including: spot skimming, absorbent bales, a vacuum truck, stationary booms and manned boats. We are working closely with the WI DNR on any additional methods to complete the remaining cleanup process.

We typically have 3-4 boats out on the waterways each day, with an additional land crew manning a vacuum truck to enable access to oil pockets and sheen at difficult locations along the shorelines. Work is ongoing and all efforts to address this spill are being considered as we work toward resolution. Based on the spots remaining, we will continue to evaluate daily staffing needs and adjust our crews accordingly. In addition to capturing oil residue, our crews are also working to clean up trash on the waterways while they are out there.

We are working to capture the remainder and will continue to do so vigilantly as areas of potential oil are identified by our crews or members of the public. To make it easy for members of the public to report any spotting of potential oil, we encourage direct messages to our @KomatsuMining Facebook page. We appreciate the support of the community and employee volunteers who have been providing updates and we take each of those reports seriously as we work to implement cleanup procedures.

We sincerely regret that this incident occurred and are committed to supporting the immediate and longer-term needs of correcting the matter. We are working directly with Wisconsin Humane Society to sponsor the care of the two animals they are supporting that may have been affected by this incident

Public update - Dec. 13, 2021

Since Dec. 3, when staff at our Joy Global facility on W. National Ave. became aware of a spill of used oil from a container at that site and immediately alerted proper authorities including the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center, we’ve been working with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the emergency response cleanup contractors we hired to aggressively address the situation as quickly as possible. At this time, we estimate we have been able to recover about 80% of oil residue on Milwaukee’s waterways, and we are working rapidly to address the remainder. The used oil that was spilled is reported to be a combination of spent cutting, hydraulic and lubrication oils generated from our manufacturing process.

We appreciate the support of the community and employee volunteers who have been providing updates on any spotting of potential oil spread and we take each of those reports seriously as we work to implement cleanup procedures. Our approach to the cleanup is in coordination with the WI DNR, who we have been working closely with during each phase of the cleanup. There were two boat crews out on the waterways on Friday and three boat crews on Saturday, with an additional land crew working on cleanup response efforts on both days. Sunday’s activities included two boat crews on the rivers and one land crew with a vacuum truck to enable access to oil pockets and sheen at difficult locations along the shorelines. Work is ongoing today and we had four boats out as part of the continued cleanup. All efforts to address this spill are being considered and aggressively implemented.

We sincerely regret that this incident occurred and are committed to supporting the immediate and longer-term needs of correcting the matter. We want to thank the community groups and stakeholders who have helped inform us throughout this process as we work to remedy this situation as quickly as possible.

Public update - Dec. 10, 2021

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.

As cleanup work continued this week, it became clear that the spill was more extensive than initially thought and we began to implement a more aggressive cleanup and remediation effort. We are in the midst of investigating how this very regrettable accident occurred and we are focused on continuing to implement aggressive cleanup efforts to remediate the situation as quickly as possible.

Our expanded cleanup efforts include immediate plans to place absorbent containment devices or “booms” to contain the oil in the areas where any concern of waste has been noticed, including spots in the Menomonee, Kinnickinnic and Milwaukee rivers, as well as the tributary below the Hoan Bridge. We have employed a professional, national spill response team to help guide this effort. Our cleanup and remediation response plans include the placement of the containment booms noted above, as well as the use of a boat and vacuum truck to remove any oil that has been spilled. We remain in consistent contact with the Wisconsin DNR and the EPA, and we are in the process of reaching out to other stakeholders in the area to brief them on the situation.

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. We sincerely appreciate the assistance and concern of the public and the wildlife experts and volunteers who support our region on a daily basis.

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. We take seriously our duty to operate responsibly and within the rules and regulations that have been established for our facilities, and we strive to serve as a responsible corporate citizen in good times and through challenges, as we have for over 100 years. We will update the community and key stakeholders when we have further information.