BP Confirms Oil Spill into Lake Michigan From Whiting Refinery

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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.


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.”


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.” 


Cleanup crews deploy boom near refinery to recover crude oil


Cleanup crews work along Lake Michigan shoreline in Whiting, Ind.


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.

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  • Notmyfirstrodeo

    Yep, the speculators are loving this. Another reason to gauge us even though this will not affect current production. What is even more frustrating is that car manufacturers have the capability for super fuel efficiency but the idiots in DC don't want that. It would mean less kick backs from big oil for them.

  • Bri

    Love how everyone is more concerned about the price of gas rising than the impact this could have on the environment and one of the largest sources of freshwater in the nation. Oil leaks in the Great Lakes are serious business with far reaching consequences. Something needs to be done to prevent bigger accidents from happening down the road,

    • kevin

      I get the feeling you don't know how easily humans can not care until it has something to do with them. Since most people don't use the great lakes themselves they won't care until they have to start paying for bottled processed water.

    • John

      Right on, Bri! The something we need to do is get this friggin nation off our addiction to dirty fossil fuels. But like Nontmyfirstrodeo said above, as long as the politicians keep lining their pockets from Big Oil and Big Coal, this sh– will keep happening due to unavoidable human error and people who don't do their jobs well running these places. They can blame mechanical error, but it's some person(s) job to ensure the mechanical stuff is working right.

  • Andy

    I'd also like know whether the spilled "oil" was actually light crude or some form of bitumen (from the tar sands production). It will make a HUGE difference for cleanup.

  • adam

    Another spill!! Bp is absolutely terrible at there job!! They obviously dont care about their impact on nature! This is gettin ridiculous and somethin has to be done. Not just a small fine either. Or holding them responsible for the money needed for the clean up! This company lacks the professionalism needed in this kind of business. Bp has to stop with these spills!! And it gets personal for me when its in my great lake! If I could actually be face to face with the people running this oil industry, I’d surly give them such an ass whooped they’d never forget!

    • Truther

      Remember why he apologized ?
      Think back….protesters screaming about the evil of oil-
      The country demanding oil production be increased domesticity ( we export most domestic oil and pay higher prices for foreign oil )
      Remember gas was $1.87 a gal average when Obama took office-
      Remember "we need to cut our dependency on foreign oil" as a campaign slogan ( that never happened- in fact we import MORE oil now)

      The gulf spill was a huge mystery as to cause..

      And look at who rushes to make a political statement before all the facts are in…

      • ZOSO1

        2 things: that $1.87 thing was a brief price drop, it was $4.14 a gallon the summer before he took office. and; how was the gulf oil spill a mystery?? BP mismanaged it and cut corners, and Halliburton did shoddy work, from what i remember.

  • Steven Goossen

    After the Gulf of Mexico, and now our beloved Lake Michigan, anything short of a complete shut down of BP is unacceptable. DO NOT PATRONIZE BP WITH YOUR DOLLAR.

  • Amy

    I am not surprised. They need to keep oil refineries far away from our fresh water sources. But, that wont happen. Governments do not rule the world, corporations like these a**holes do.

  • John

    Stabenow says she'll ensure this does not happen again. Yeah, right! This same refinery had a similar accident about 5 years ago or so. Where was she then? Why didn't she prevent this one from happening back then?

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    to say great blog!

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