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Milwaukee port starts shipping ethanol, raising concerns

May 24, 2018 GMT

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Ethanol is being shipped out of the Port of Milwaukee this spring for the first time in at least a decade, raising environmental concerns.

The liquid cargo pier recently received a $3.6 million upgrade that allows it to move ethanol and petroleum products, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported .

U.S. Oil loaded its first shipment of 100,000 barrels of ethanol last month. The distributor is a subsidiary of U.S. Venture, which distributes oil, ethanol, lubricants, tires and auto parts.

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The Milwaukee Riverkeeper group wants to ensure the proper precautions are taken to transport ethanol safely, said Cheryl Nenn, who works for the environmental group.

An ethanol spill can quickly mix with lake water, creating an environmental threat by removing oxygen from the water. Ethanol can also still be flammable in water, according to a 2011 report by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Quality.

The company had to file a response plan with the U.S. Coast Guard, said Lieutenant Commander Bryan Swintek of the U.S. Coast Guard in Milwaukee. The plan includes controlling the spill, guarding water intake pipes and protecting wildlife in near-shore areas.

“They have a very robust response plan,” Swintek said. “Clearly, they want to make sure they are operating in a safe manner.”

U.S. Venture spokesman Alison Fiebig said the company has been shipping ethanol from the port of Green Bay for six years without incident.

“What is oftentimes overlooked is that we are helping Wisconsin corn growers when it comes to ethanol and that’s a really great story — to help them be more competitive by transporting some of the corn crop to Canada,” Fiebig said.

About 16 percent of the 1.7 billion gallons of ethanol exported last year went through Great Lakes ports, according to the Renewable Fuels Association.

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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com