By Dylan Deprey
The banging of drums resonated across the water that loomed in the shadow of the railroad swing bridge in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward.
“Oil and water don’t mix, oil and water don’t mix, oil and water don’t mix!”
The crowd chanted to the rhythm of the drum duo, One Drop. They kept the rhythm by beating on the kayaks bobbing in the water.
The Milwaukee Riverkeepers and Citizens Acting for Rail Safety (CARS) held the first Convergence at the Confluence, Sunday, Sept. 13.
The event took place to promote awareness of the transportation of crude oil on railways through Milwaukee and the lasting effects it could have on the environment.
The members of each group took to the water at the confluence of the Milwaukee and Menomonee rivers. They hopped into canoes, kayaks, and even paddleboards.
“Oil and water don’t mix,” wasn’t just a chant, but a sign that was held high by the kayakers.
The Milwaukee Riverkeepers is a science-based activist group that promotes clean water programs for the public. Cheryl Nenn is the riverkeeper for Milwaukee.
Nenn’s voice boomed over a bullhorn to the crowd as she floated in the water on the Milwaukee Riverkeepers’ boat.
“The City of Milwaukee has no spill response plan,” Cheryl Nenn said.
The Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic Rivers as well as Lake Michigan could be all in danger of a potential oil spill in the event of an oil tanker overturning.
According to Nenn, if a spill were to happen, oil Continued on page 8 would sink to the bottom of Lake Michigan, and would be virtually impossible to clean. It could also potentially affect our drinking water.
“Decades of clean water work is being threatened,” Eric Hansen, head of the Milwaukee chapter of Citizens Acting for Rail Safety, said.
Considering the increasing amount of oil being hauled by trains, a spill could be as tragic as other major spills like those of Exxon Valdez and BP.
“Even in winter it would be impossible to clean up,” Nenn said.
The push for awareness came after an investigative report by Fox News 6 concerning the lack of railway infrastructure inspections done by Canadian Pacific.
The crumbling infrastructure is dangerous. It is an even more hazardous combination with the massive increase in the amount of oil tankers carrying highly volatile Bakken crude oil from oil fields in North Dakota.
“They can sometimes get up to a mile long,” Eric Hansen said.
Trains that have passed through Milwaukee have gone on and derailed, Hansen said. Two years ago 47 people died in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada after a rail disaster that ended in explosion.
The crowd on shore was made up of concerned citizens and members of multiple ecological groups.
Meg Zimont, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student, was at the event sporting her yellow “Ban the Bomb Train” sign.
She added that the bridge was almost one hundred years old, and it was just a matter of time before something happened.
“These are pipelines on rails,” Zimont said. “The tankers are meant to carry at-most vegetable oil, not crude oil.”
Other members of the crowd were citizens who live by the railways.
Trains run past Mark Gray’s studio apartment daily.
“If a train derailed, I’d be in the blast zone,” Gray said. “I don’t want to get vaporized.”