This week’s Lake Michigan oil spill is a stark reminder that oil spills can and do happen in the Great Lakes.Coming on the heels of a pipeline leak in a southwest Ohio nature preserve — and occurring on the 25th anniversary of the historic Exxon Valdez oil spill off the Alaskan coast — this event underscores our concerns about plans to ship heavy tar sands oil across the Great Lakes. Oil Spill Update Today, it appears that the oil spill from BP’s Whiting, Ind. refinery has been contained. The EPA reports that BP has plugged the leak that caused the spill, and work to remove the oil from the lake is under way. At the moment, there are no reports of impacts to wildlife or human health. The U.S. Coast Guard and EPA are overseeing BP's cleanup plan and operations. Local and federal leaders are calling for a full accounting from BP.By all appearances, we were lucky this time around. The spill was relatively small, discovered quickly and occurred near the shoreline — all factors that made it easier to address than a deep-water spill occurring far from the coast. The Kalamazoo River — a Great Lakes tributary — has not been so lucky. The river is still suffering from a cataclysmic 2010 pipeline spill of tar sands crude. Four years and $1 billion-plus worth of cleanup later, more than 20 percent of the oil spill remains at the bottom of the river. Tar Sands Oil Shipping Plans are in the works to dramatically increase the flow of tar sands crude to the Midwest, and a tar sands shipping route has already been mapped across the waters of the Great Lakes. Join our webinar “Tar Sands Crude Shipping on the Great Lakes?” to hear from experts on this issue. The webinar will be tomorrow (Thurs., March 27) at noon Central.We will keep you posted on further developments. Thank you for being part of the Alliance family. Sincerely,

Lyman Welch
Water Quality Program Director

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telliottmbamsc's picture
telliottmbamsc 5 years 12 weeks ago
#1

Less than a year after BP started up a new unit to process Canadian tar sands at its Whiting, Ind., refinery, the company reported Tuesday that a malfunction allowed a slug of crude oil into Lake Michigan a few miles away from the Chicago city limits.

It remains unclear how much oil spilled into the lake or how long the discharge continued. Workers at the refinery reported an oil sheen on the water about 4:30 p.m. Monday, and an official from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the leak was plugged by the time he arrived at 9 p.m.

Mike Beslow, the EPA's emergency response coordinator, said there appeared to be no negative effects on Lake Michigan, the source of drinking water for 7 million people in Chicago and the suburbs. The 68th Street water intake crib is about eight miles northwest of the spill site, but there were no signs of oil drifting in that direction.

Initial reports suggest that strong winds pushed most of the oil toward a sandy cove on BP's property between the refinery and an Arcelor Mittal steel mill. A flyover Tuesday afternoon revealed no visible oil beyond booms laid on the water to prevent the oil from spreading, Beslow said.

"There is no known impact to wildlife or human health at this time," Beslow said.

Frigid temperatures caused some of the oil to harden into a waxy consistency that made it easier to collect, said Scott Dean, a BP spokesman. Crews used vacuum trucks to suck up any liquid oil that washed ashore.

The malfunction occurred at the refinery's largest crude distillation unit, the centerpiece of a nearly $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.

BP said a mixture of heavy and light oil somehow leaked into a sealed cooling system that circulates water between Lake Michigan and the refinery. Oil is never supposed to come in direct contact with the cooling water.

The spill comes amid years of legal challenges from federal officials and environmental groups that have forced BP to take extra steps to curb air and water pollution at the nation's seventh-largest oil refinery. The Whiting plant remains one of the largest sources of industrial pollution discharged into Lake Michigan, according to federal records.

In a joint statement, U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk of Illinois said they are concerned that BP's move to increase production could lead to more oil spills.

"We plan to hold BP accountable for this spill," the senators said, "and will ask for a thorough report about the cause of this spill ... and steps are being taken to prevent any future spill."

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Roland369 5 years 12 weeks ago
#2

Pollution is so common, that we are surprised when a day goes by without it. How much longer can the Earth take it and still support life is questionable. The Earth does have a self-cleansing mechanism, but it takes hundreds if not thousands of years to complete. Those in the fossil fuel industry, as well as the Republican Right and their backers like the Koch Brothers, deny global warming, yet we see the effects of it each year. I guess they call it climate change, and not even admit that man's burning fossil fuel has anything to do with it. The sad fact is that even if we were to immediately stop producing greenhouse gas, the exponential curve on the graph would continue to rise, probably for thousands of years before it starts to level off.

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