Anglers, environmentalists and many others are pleased with a recent decision by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to reduce pollution of Lake Michigan and its fisheries.
A stricter IDEM permit requires BP’s Whiting oil refinery, just outside Chicago, to lower its mercury discharges from 23 parts per trillion to 8.75.
“We are pleased the agency responded to our recommendation by strengthening the mercury requirements and requiring BP to submit and update its stormwater plan,” said Lyman Welch of the Alliance for the Great Lakes. “Still, we are disappointed that IDEM did not go as far as we’d hoped to protect the waters of the Great Lakes.”
At BP, meanwhile, spokesman Scott Dean said that new technologies for pollution reduction are promising.
“BP is committed to protecting Lake Michigan and we are cautiously optimistic that our recent investment in new water treatment equipment will further reduce the Whiting Refinery mercury discharge,” Dean said. “Having said that, the mercury limit in the revised permit has decreased by more than half and 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.”
The company has almost completed a $3.8 billion expansion that will make it a top processor of heavy crude oil from Canada’s tar sand deposits. Following announcement of construction in 2007, IDEM allowed BP to increase its discharge of mercury, ammonia, and suspended solids.
Public outrage over that decision convinced BP to abide by stricter standards for ammonia and dissolved solids. But Indiana allowed an exemption for mercury as the company worked on technology to scrub its waste of that pollutant.
(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)