BP Reconsiders Lake Michigan Refinery Dumping
EPA suggests 7 water-friendly steps for BP, including funding storm water upgrades
Amid a whirlwind of public and political protests, BP and Indiana regulators agreed Wednesday to reconsider a permit that allows the Midwest's largest oil refinery to significantly increase the amount of toxic waste it dumps into Lake Michigan. Neither committed to a specific solution, but each softened its defense of the permit.A top BP executive promised to review pollution reduction suggestions from Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and environmental groups. These parties have offered information regarding technologies BP could use to control the pollution coming from its Whiting, Ind., refinery.The company currently plans to start dumping more ammonia and suspended solids into Lake Michigan as part of a $3.8 billion refinery expansion. BP officials said the fact that the project will create 80 permanent jobs and 2,000 construction jobs helps offset the pollution effects."This isn't a trivial controversy," said BP America vice chairman Stephen Elbert. "People want this fixed yesterday. We've got 5,000 BP employees that are concerned, not only about the contamination but about this smack on the company.""There will be a day when water is more important than gasoline," said David Ullrich, a former EPA leading official who now directs the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, an advocacy group formed by the region's mayors. "Even if everything is legal here, the question is whether it's the right thing to do."The EPA has outlined suggestions for BP, listing seven ways the company could help protect Lake Michigan. The suggestions are as follows:• Finance projects that reduce pollution from other companies that discharge into the Calumet River or Lake Michigan.• Divert all or some of the refinery's wastewater to nearby municipal treatment plants, including the Hammond, East Chicago and Gary sanitary districts.• Pay for sewer upgrades in neighboring communities to help keep sewage and storm water out of Lake Michigan.• Set aside funds for filtering pollution via wetlands, shoreline restoration and storm water retention ponds.• Make additional refinery water treatment plant upgrades to reduce the amount of pollution flowing into the lake.• Invest more funds in clearing contaminated muck from the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal.• Join Indiana in funding projects that aim to remove contaminated sediment from the Grand Calumet River.