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Komatsu executive: Oil spill 'should never have happened'

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Associated Press

MILWAUKEE (AP) — An executive with Wisconsin manufacturing company Komatsu says the spread of oil from a spill on the Menomonee River in Milwaukee last month could have been avoided if the company had quickly notified local authorities.

John Koetz, Komatsu’s president of surface mining, apologized Friday and told city officials and others that the company had been focused on communicating with regulators and working on a cleanup plan, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

“The spill itself is something that should never have happened,” Koetz said. “We should have done a better job communicating more promptly the details to the stakeholders.”

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said Dec. 3 spill at Komatsu’s facility on West National Avenue allowed about 400 gallons of oil to enter a storm drain that goes to the Menomonee River.

Koethz said the company has pulled more than 13,000 gallons of water and oil sheen in the last month. Between 90% and 95% of the visible oil sheen has been cleaned up, he estimated.

Cheryl Nenn of the Milwaukee Riverkeeper organization said the spill was difficult to contain because it quickly expanded to a large geographic area. She said her group could have helped if it had known about the incident.

“We’re obviously concerned about long-term impacts on water quality and wildlife from that and how we’re going to be able to clean it up in the future,” Nenn said.

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