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BP lake cleanup continues; Chicago mayor wants ‘full accounting’

A worker dumps contaminated soil inbag Whiting IN March 25 2014. | Jim Karczewski/for Sun-Times Media

A worker dumps contaminated soil into a bag in Whiting, IN on March 25, 2014. | Jim Karczewski/for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 12, 2014 12:44PM



WHITING — Cleanup crews have cleaned up most of the visible oil on the water and shoreline at the BP Whiting refinery, officials said Wednesday afternoon, two days after an oil processing malfunction dumped an estimated 420 gallons into Lake Michigan.

Meanwhile, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday demanded a “full accounting” from BP.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has characterized the leak as minor and said there was no apparent impact on Lake Michigan, which supplies drinking water to the city and suburbs. Officials estimate that 420 gallons of crude oil leaked into the lake.

But Emanuel said he’s taking no chances about a lake he called “our Yosemite Park, our Grand Canyon” and the source of Chicago’s recreation and drinking water.

“There was a leak the other day. They’re calling it minor. I expect a full accounting to the public. … I want a report on what happened, how it happened, why did it happen, how much happened and how do you prevent it from ever happening again,” he said.

Vacuum trucks removed about 5,200 gallons of an oil-water mixture as of Tuesday night, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The spill occurred around 4:30 p.m. Monday, when an oil processing error caused a slug of crude to be injected into the No. 6 separator at the water treatment plant and the mixture discharged into the lake through an outflow pipe. Typically, the cooling water system has no contact with oil.

“Chicago’s water was rated No. 1. I don’t want anything to ever endanger it. We’re investing it. I want to make sure BP is a good corporate citizen next door in Indiana,” Emanuel said.

EPA’s on-scene coordinator Mike Beslow said Tuesday that EPA officials do not expect the oil to impact drinking water in the Chicago and Northwest Indiana area.

BP and the EPA said there is no immediate timetable on the length of the cleanup and BP spokesman Scott Dean said no operations were interrupted by the situation.

A source close to the investigation said the part likely at fault is in a newer part of the plant. EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman said they are not aware of any previous spills at the refinery.

Oil spills are violations of the Clean Water Act. A source close to the investigation said fines from the EPA and IDEM are likely.

Reporters Fran Speilman and Christin Nance Lazerus contributed to this report.



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