BP has confirmed that an unknown amount of crude oil leaked into Lake Michigan on Monday from the company’s Whiting Refinery in Indiana. According to CBS Chicago, cleanup was already underway on Tuesday as vacuum trucks worked on picking up clumps of crude oil that had congealed due to the low temperatures. BP said that the leak was a result of a malfunction at the refinery’s distillation unit, which led to crude oil mixing with the facility’s cooling pond. The cooling pond discharges into Lake Michigan.
“There is no known impact to wildlife or human health at this time,” EPA emergency response coordinator Mike Beslow told The Chicago Tribune.
Oil booms have been placed on the water to contain the oil and cleanup crews reported no signs of the substance outside the 5,000-square-foot area. Experts estimated the amount of leaked oil to be minor, and the Coast Guard reported an initial estimate of 378 to 756 gallons of oil spilled. Reuters reported that by Wednesday, cleanup crews had already vacuumed up 5,200 gallons of contaminated water. The wind also helped cleanup efforts by pushing the oily water into one corner of the containment zone.
“The cold weather has actually made the oil almost congeal to what was described to be as a waxy substance and you see the crews picking it up with flat shovels and putting it into trash bags and where it will then be properly disposed of,” said BP spokesperson Scott Dean.
The EPA and Indiana Department of Environmental Management are looking into the cause of the malfunction, which came after a nearly $4 billion upgrade to the facility. Some lawmakers had also issued statements of concern over the enlargement of the facility, which was done to facilitate the refinement of heavy Canadian crude oil.
Image courtesy Steve Martarano/ US Fish and Wildlife Service