It was not immediately clear how much oil spilled into the lake or how long the discharge continued. A spokesman for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management said the leak was plugged by 1 a.m. today.
The effect on Lake Michigan, the source of drinking water for 7 million people in Chicago and the suburbs, likely won’t be determined for several days. Emergency response crews from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard are on the scene.
BP laid booms on the water in an attempt to keep the oil from spreading beyond a cove between the refinery’s wastewater treatment plant and an Arcelor Mittal steel mill. Winds were pushing the oil toward the shore and frigid temperatures caused some of it to harden into a waxy consistency that made it easier to collect, said Scott Dean, a BP spokesman.
The malfunction apparently occurred at the refinery’s largest distillation unit, the centerpiece of a $4 billion overhaul that allowed BP to process more heavy Canadian oil from the tar sands region of Alberta. The unit, which Dean said has resumed normal operations, performs one of the first steps in the refining of crude oil into gasoline and other fuels.
SENATOR CARL LEVIN STATEMENT
Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, issued the following statement today about an overnight oil spill at BP’s Whiting, Ind., refinery into Lake Michigan:
“This incident underscores the importance of vigilance in protecting our Great Lakes from oil spills. We are fortunate that the spill appears to have been quickly contained, but I will continue to monitor developments to ensure that the cleanup is rapid and complete.”
SENATOR DEBBIE STABENOW RELEASES STATEMENT
Michigan U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow today made the following statement on reports of an oil spill in Lake Michigan. The spill occurred at BP’s Whiting, IN refinery.
“I am deeply concerned about today’s news. This just underscores the critical importance of protecting our Great Lakes and reminds us of the impact a disaster of this nature can have on our State’s economy and way-of-life. I will continue to monitor this situation closely, and make sure the company fulfills its responsibility to clean up this spill and provide greater protections to ensure it does not happen again.”
THE FOLLOWING IS A NEWS RELEASE SENT BY THE U.S. COAST GUARD…
WHITING, Ind. — The Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency are responding to the report of an oil discharge into Lake Michigan from the BP Whiting Refinery in Whiting, Ind.
The Coast Guard received a report Monday night from watchstanders the National Response Center of a
sheen from an unknown substance discharging from an outflow adjacent to the refinery.
Personnel from Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Chicago and the EPA responded last night and found an area of about 5,000 square feet covered in crude oil.
BP established an incident command post and deployed about 1,000 feet of boom, along with six vacuum trucks to begin initial containment and recovery operations in a cove adjacent to the refinery.
Tuesday morning, Coast Guard pollution responders observed some of the substance had made landfall along the shoreline of the cove; they found tarballs less than 1 centimeter in diameter, averaging 20 tarballs per 10 feet of shoreline.
In addition, a helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City, Mich., conducted an overflight of the scene and did not report any sheen or pockets of oil beyond the refinery.
BP has established an air monitoring program on shore to ensure safety of the public and responders.
The Coast Guard and EPA are overseeing BP’s cleanup plan and operations.
Shoreline cleanup assessment teams, made up of personnel from the Coast Guard, EPA, Indiana Department of Environmental Management and BP, will survey the shoreline that may have been affected by the discharge. The outcome of this survey will be used to recommend cleanup strategies to the incident commander.
For information relating to the discharge and recovery operations, contact the BP press officer at 281-366-4463. For information about the Coast Guard’s response operations, contact Chief Petty Officer Alan Haraf at 216 389-0420. For information about EPA’s response, please contact Francisco Arcaute at 312-886-7613.