(AP) — Crews for oil giant BP worked Tuesday to clean up an undetermined
amount of crude oil that spilled into Lake Michigan and affected about a
half-mile section of shoreline near Chicago following a malfunction at
BP's northwestern Indiana refinery, officials said.
reported Monday afternoon by BP appears to have been contained by
company crew members who deployed absorbent booms around the spill site,
said Mike Beslow, on-scene coordinator for the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency's Region 5.
Scott Dean said the area affected by the spill was a cove along the Lake
Michigan at the company's sprawling Whiting refinery, which covers about
The spill is
about 20 miles southeast of downtown Chicago but was not expected to
pose any threat to municipal water supplies that draw on the lake's
water, Beslow said.
A Coast Guard
flyover of the area Tuesday did not reveal any oil outside the
containment booms, Beslow said during a Tuesday afternoon media
briefing, "but there is oil on the beach that is being addressed."
Beslow said BP
crews were using vacuum trucks to suck up the corralled oil and were
cleaning up oil along 2,700 feet of private shoreline the company owns
at the Whiting site, he said.
The EPA and the
U.S. Coast Guard were supervising that work, Beslow said.
Beslow said the
Coast Guard was working with BP officials to determine how much oil had
been discharged into the lake.
Dean, the BP
spokesman, said northerly winds were helping contain the oil by pushing
it toward the shoreline.
"It's in the
lake, yes, but it's not moving around freely. It's been kind of
contained because of the weather and of the geography of the lakefront
there," Dean said.
BP said in a
statement Tuesday evening that it believes that "an upset at a crude
distillation unit may have sent crude oil into the refinery's cooling
water outfall and then into the lake."
said it has taken steps to prevent another discharge and might have an
estimate Wednesday on how much oil was spilled.
reported to the EPA that when its workers discovered the spill they
observed an oily sheen that covered about 5,000 square yards, said Susan
Hedman, the EPA's regional administrator.
a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, said
an agency official who was at the scene around 2 a.m. Tuesday had
reported "a large sheen on the lake."
Hedman said the
EPA is not aware of any previous oil spills at the site, but the agency
is just beginning its assessment of this week's spill.
will be looking into this matter and determining whether or not
enforcement action is appropriate," she said.
U.S. Sen. Carl
Levin, D-Mich., who co-chairs the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, said in
a statement that the incident "underscores the importance of vigilance
in protecting our Great Lakes from oil spills."
fortunate that the spill appears to have been quickly contained, but I
will continue to monitor developments to ensure that the cleanup is
rapid and complete," Levin said.