Officials aren’t sure how much oil spilled into the lake, where refinery workers reported an oil sheen about 4:30 p.m. Monday, before the leak was plugged by about 9 p.m., reported the Chicago Tribune.
The malfunction happened less than a year after BP started up a new unit at its Whiting, Indiana, refinery to process heavy Canadian oil from the tar sands area of Alberta.
A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency said there appeared to be no negative effects on Lake Michigan, which supplies drinking water for 7 million people in the Chicago area.
Officials said strong winds pushed most of the oil toward a sandy cove on BP-owned property between the refinery and an Arcelor Mittal steel mill.
Frigid temperatures caused some of the oil to harden into a waxy consistency that allowed it to be more easily collected, a BP spokesman said.
The EPA spokesman said officials had not yet found any negative effects on the lake, its wildlife, or human health.
U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) said in a joint statement that they’re concerned BP’s plans to increase production could further endanger the region’s environment.
“We plan to hold BP accountable for this spill,” the senators said, “and will ask for a thorough report about the cause of this spill … and steps are being taken to prevent any future spill.”
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