U.S. Water News Online
CHICAGO, Ill. -- BP could keep the pollution discharges at
its northwestern Indiana refinery at current levels even after the
plant's $3.8 billion expansion by spending $40 million to add new
technologies, a report suggests.
The city of Chicago commissioned Tetra Tech, a California-based
engineering firm, to review the expansion project for the Whiting
refinery. Tetra Tech's report concluded that BP could upgrade the
refinery's wastewater treatment plant for less than $40 million using
technologies in use at other refineries to significantly cut the new
plant's discharges into Lake Michigan.
"We are confident that it can be done," Joe Deal, an assistant to
Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, told The Indianapolis Star.
BP had faced growing public and political outrage over a new
Indiana permit that allows the company to significantly boost the
amount of pollutants dumped into the lake from the northwest Indiana
refinery, which is the nation's fourth-largest.
Last month, amid mounting pressure, BP said the refinery would
stay within the limits set in its previous permit. But BP officials
warned the decision could jeopardize the new construction because
they said they didn't know of technology that would allow for
expansion without increasing discharges into the lake.
Deal and environmentalists who had opposed the IDEM permit said BP
officials were presented with several options in the days before that
"The information on technology we provided to BP is not exactly
cutting-edge or emerging; it is in use now at other refineries," Deal
said. "We believe it can work at Whiting, too."
BP spokeswoman Valerie Corr acknowledged the company had been
provided the report but said she could not comment on the
recommendations. She noted the company is giving the Purdue Calumet
Water Institute and Argonne National Laboratory a $5 million grant to
research technology that could reduce pollution at the refinery.
"Purdue and Argonne will take all of the ideas that come to us and
look at new technology and get back to us," she said.
In June, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management
approved a new water permit that allows BP to increase ammonia
discharges by 54 percent, to an average of 1,584 pounds a day, and
suspended solid discharges by 35 percent, to 4,925 pounds a day.
When BP secured its new permit, federal and state regulators
agreed there was not anything the company could do to reduce its
discharges. Based largely on what BP told them, regulators concluded
there is not enough room at the 1,400-acre refinery for the necessary
equipment, according to public documents.
Howard Learner, executive director of the Chicago-based
Environmental Law and Policy Center, said BP's options should allow
it to move ahead with the expansion.
He said the projected $30 million to $40 million cost of the
wastewater upgrades would represent less than 1.5 percent of the
refinery expansion and the highly profitable company could easily
afford the upgrades.
"BP has the resources to do this right," Learner said.
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