BP’s Refinery Is Behind the Oil Sludge on Lake Michigan

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

BP plc (NYSE:BP) has confirmed that a malfunction at an oil refinery in Whiting, Michigan forced an as-yet-unknown amount of crude oil into Lake Michigan, according to the Chicago Tribune and another local source.

“We did have a processing disruption last night at the Whiting refinery,” BP spokesperson Scott Dean said Tuesday. “Some oil found its way into the cooling water system. It wasn’t long lasting,” he added. The incident was discovered around 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Dean said. There were no injuries as a result of the spill, the BP representative added.

Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Phillippa Cannon said that authorities are unsure of just how much oil spilled into the lake, and how long the discharge occurred for. “We don’t have an estimated volume yet,” she said, per NWI. Officials at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management said that the leak was plugged by 1 a.m. Tuesday morning. Currently, emergency response crews from both the EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard are on site.

BP has laid booms on the site to prevent the oil from moving out of the initial spill zone, a small cove near the refinery’s wastewater treatment plant and an Arcelor steel mill.

BP spokesperson Scott Dean added that, “The winds are out of the north and have been pushing it toward the shore, which is helping our guys with clean-up.” The cold temperatures have also turned the oil into a waxy consistency, which Dean says makes it easier to collect.

Lake Michigan is a source of drinking water for more than 7 million people in the Chicago area, the Chicago Tribune notes, but it will be days before the environmental impact of the spill on drinking water quality can be determined.

Nicole Barker, executive director of a local environmental group, Save the Dunes, says that she’s concerned about the effect that the spill will have on the environment, as well as drinking water quality, recreation, and the commercial fishing and shipping industries on the lake.

“This BP spill, while seemingly contained and currently under control exemplifies some of the concerns Save the Dunes has with transporting and refining oil near Lake Michigan,” she said, according to an NWI report. Save the Dunes is based in Michigan City.

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