Chesterton Tribune

 

 

IDEM orders BP Whiting refinery to cut mercury releases in half

Back To Front Page

WHITING, Ind. (AP) The Indiana Department of Environmental Management revised the amount of mercury that BP will be allowed to release into Lake Michigan, cutting it on Wednesday by more than half but keeping it at a level still more than six times what is allowed under the federal Clean Water Act.

The permit that goes into effect Nov. 1 allows the oil and gas company's Whiting Refinery to release no more than 8.75 parts per trillion of mercury, IDEM spokesman Dan Goldblatt told The Times of Munster. BP had received permission from IDEM in late 2011 to discharge an annual average of 23.1 parts per trillion. Such mercury variances are allowed under Indiana law.

BP spokesman Scott Dean says the company is "cautiously optimistic" its recent investment in water treatment equipment will reduce the amount of mercury discharged by the refinery, which is about 20 miles southeast of Chicago.

Dean noted, though, that "the refinery needs to gain experience operating the new equipment before we will know if the refinery can successfully and consistently meet this revised limit," Dean said. "Although we can't guarantee this stricter permit limit is achievable in real-world operating conditions, we are committed to trying."

Natural Resources Defense Council senior attorney Ann Alexander called the permit a mixed bag.

"It's nice that BP's discharge limit has now been reduced to something that more closely reflects its actual maximum mercury discharge rather than the outlier hit incorporated in its previous permit. But it's still rather ridiculous that the permit makes BP's very worst performance into an average," she said.

She said she also is pleased the permit included extensive, precise language about how BP must submit a report by March 2015 on the economic viability of mercury control technology.

Environmental groups had raised concerns that a $3.8 billion expansion at the refinery making it a top processor of heavy crude oil extracted from Canada's tar sand deposits would result in deteriorating water conditions.

 

Posted 9/25/2013