BP has recently more than doubled their estimate of how much crude oil has leaked into Lake Michigan following a spill from the Whiting refinery in northwest Indiana. Officials are now pegging the number between 15 and 39 barrels, each of which contains 42 gallons of crude oil, up from just 9-18 barrels.
While comparatively minor compared to other recent incidents, Lake Michigan serves as an water source for some 7 million people; the 68th St. water intake crib is just 8 miles northwest of the spill. It’s also unclear just what BP let leak into the water; conventional crude oil is bad enough, but the refinery was recently upgraded to handle much higher amounts of heavy crude derived from tar sands, which is much more difficult to clean up.
Despite this, there’s barely been any major media coverage of the incident, which raises serious questions about BP safety standards as the Whiting facility ramps up processing of tar sands crude.
This image sums up how most of us watching the situation are feeling:
Even the state’s senators are concerned. Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Dick Durbin, both from Illinois, say that "Given the Whiting refinery’s recent expansion of its operations to double the amount of heavy oil sands being processed, this spill raises questions about the long-term safety and reliability of BP’s new, expanded production."