Reports are coming in that a little over 500 gallons of oil has spilled into Lake Michigan from the BP Whiting refinery, which just went under massive upgrades to take on tar sands crude from Alberta Canada. This refinery and the tar sands upgrades have already caused major health effects in the nearby communities because of pollution and massive petcoke piles that continue to pop up near the refineries and Lake Michigan.
A malfunction at BP’s Whiting, Indiana, refinery caused an oil spill into Lake Michigan on Tuesday morning, according to a report on The Times of Northwest Indiana website.
The incident was discovered at 4:30 p.m. Monday, according to the report that quoted company spokesman Scott Dean.Dean told the paper BP was not yet know the amount of oil discharged into the lake due to the disruption in the processing unit at the refinery.
The refinery has a capacity of 405,000 barrels per day.
You can see footage of the clean-up from NBC Chicago
UPDATE: It is being confirmed that this spill was tar sands heavy oil, which if not addressed immediately will start to weather causing the toxic, heavy, and sticky bitumen to sink. What could make matters worse – the Great Lakes have record levels of ice cover, which means oil could migrate under the surface of the water and/or ice cover hindering recovery and response. Fortunately, the direction of the wind has pushed a great deal of the oil back to the shore for recovery and there appears to be minimal ice cover in this location.
“This BP spill, while seemingly contained and currently under control exemplifies some of the concerns Save the Dunes has with transporting and refining oil near Lake Michigan,” Barker said.
“We are glad to see that the crews effectively responded to the spill and it is fortunate that winds were blowing in a way that pushed the oil toward the shoreline,” Barker said. “However, irreversible damage can be caused by spills into our waterways and it is our greatest hope that the oil was contained before causing great harm to the Lake Michigan ecosystem.”