Lakeshore, Manufacturing, and Sustainability

Lake Michigan combats oil spill

March 27, 2014
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Coast Guard Festival anchors at Grand Haven
Grand Haven — aka Coast Guard City, U.S.A. — hosts the annual Cost Guard Festival, which draws more than 350,000 people. Photo via

The U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are continuing to respond to a crude oil spill in Lake Michigan.

The spill was reported on Monday evening at the BP Whiting Refinery in Whiting, Ind., which is about 20 miles southeast of downtown Chicago.

The agencies said yesterday that the exact volume of oil released is still undetermined, but they’re estimating it was between nine and 18 barrels.

BP continues to perform engineering analyses to determine the amount of oil discharged into the lake and will revise estimates as updated information becomes available.

Standing watch

The Coast Guard received a report Monday night from watchstanders at the National Response Center of a sheen from an unknown substance, discharging from an outflow adjacent to the refinery.

A 5,000-square-foot area was found covered in crude oil, upon initial inspection by the Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Chicago and the EPA.

Cleanup process

On Tuesday, BP established an incident-command post and deployed about 1,000 feet of boom, along with six vacuum trucks to begin initial containment and recovery operations in a cove adjacent to the refinery.

Tuesday morning, Coast Guard pollution responders observed some of the substance had made landfall along the shoreline of the cove. They found tarballs less than one centimeter in diameter, averaging 20 tarballs per 10 feet of shoreline.

The Coast Guard reported Wednesday that a shoreline cleanup assessment team, with members from both agencies and BP, has inspected the shoreline for crude oil and is making recommendations for cleanup.

“The SCAT team inspected the shoreline for about three hours and saw minimal oiling of the shoreline and recommended a small crew to manually remove crude oil along the shoreline,” according to the agencies.

“Weather and wind conditions improved overnight, which allowed teams to re-deploy boom as a precautionary measure.”

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