INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
An initial assessment of a Lake Michigan oil spill shows that between nine
and 18 barrels of crude oil entered the lake following a malfunction at oil
giant BP’s sprawling northwestern Indiana refinery, the U.S. Coast Guard
spokesman Chief Petty Officer Alan Haraf said the estimate came from BP’s
initial visual assessment Tuesday of the spill scene at the company’s
Whiting refinery some 20 miles southeast of downtown Chicago.
One barrel of oil
contains about 42 gallons, meaning the estimate indicates between about 378
and 756 gallons of crude oil were released into the lake.
Haraf said a more
accurate figure likely will be released later this week on how much oil
entered the lake, where crews for BP continued their cleanup work Wednesday.
Those crews deployed absorbent booms following the spill, which affected a
half-mile of private shoreline that’s owned by BP and is not accessible to
the general public.
Protection Agency, which is supervising the cleanup work with the U.S. Coast
Guard, said Tuesday that BP crews had used vacuum trucks to suck up about
5,200 gallons of an oil and water mixture from the site and had also removed
oil globs from the shoreline.
The EPA issued a
brief statement Wednesday saying an assessment team from the agency, the
Coast Guard and BP surveyed the spill site Wednesday and found “minimal
oiling of the shoreline.”
The EPA said the
survey team has recommended that crews continue to scour the shoreline to
manually remove any remaining oil.
BP said in a
statement Wednesday that its crews “have recovered the vast majority of oil
that had been visible on the surface” of a cove-like area where the spill
The company said it
continues its work to calculate how much oil was released into the lake
during the spill, which was discovered Monday.
BP and EPA
officials said Tuesday the spill apparently occurred when a malfunction
allowed crude oil to enter a cooling system that draws lake water into the
refinery to cool equipment and then returns that water to the lake.
Haraf said the
spill area is confined to a cove area along the shoreline where BP
discharges water from the refinery cooling operations into the lake.
The EPA has said
the spill was not expected to pose any threat to municipal water supplies
that draw on the lake’s water.
have said they are not aware of any previous oil spills at the site.
Dan Goldblatt, a
spokesman for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, said
Wednesday a tentative review of recent state records also revealed no
previous oil discharges into the lake from BP’s Whiting complex.
Goldblatt said the
state agency has no indication any oil had drifted beyond the immediate area
along the lake where the spill occurred.
refinery covers about 1,400 acres along the lake’s shoreline.
completed work in late 2013 on a $4.2 billion expansion and upgrade of the
refinery that will make it a top processor of heavy crude oil extracted from
Canada’s tar sand deposits.
sparked outrage in 2007 among environmentalists after they learned a state
permit would have allowed BP to increase its discharges of ammonia and
pollution called suspended solids into the lake.
BP announced in
August 2007 that it would find ways to keep the expanded refinery’s
discharges to the limits set under its previous permits.