Quick update to our readers on the British Petroleum increased dumping situation on Lake Michigan.
As reported by Michael Hawthorne in The Chicago Tribune earlier today, Stephen Johnson, Administrator of The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was quoted as saying he and the agency are standing behind the permit that was granted by them to Indiana regulators and BP in June to allow increased dumping into Lake Michigan. With this permit, BP is allowed to not only increase sludge and ammonia levels pumped into the lake, but also allows BP to avoid meeting stringent mercury reduction levels for the next five years as well.
Johnson was questioned during a conference on how the permit to BP and Indiana remains in line with the EPA’s earlier goal of keeping the lake clean and as pollution free as possible? The original EPA permit dealing with the Clean Water Act of the 1970’s was clear that NO increase in pollution was allowed. What gives? The answer Johnson provided, “the agency spends hundreds of thousands of dollars every year cleaning up polluted sites around the lakes”. Thinking minds might inquire, wouldn’t it be smarter to not pollute at all and thus, not need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars cleaning up old AND new waste? Guess common sense got flushed down the drain along with the extra waste.
The Tribune’s detailed article reminded readers that three years back, BP along with a half dozen other companies settled an EPA complaint and paid out a combined $56 million to clean up the Grand Calumet River, Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal, a heavily industrialized waterway that had washed millions of pounds of contaminated waste into Lake Michigan.
Regardless of a censure of disapproval resolution by Congress that passed with flying colors and in person requests to revoke the permit, The EPA is standing by it's decision. The permit will not be revoked. Increased discharge remains approved. It looks like we will need to put BP on an honor system of finding another site to dump extra waste since the congressional resolution that passed is simply a smack on the wrist of a company doing bad and The EPA has decided they’d rather clean up additional waste sites rather than stopping the problem from beginning in the first place.
British Petroleum spokespersons and Indiana regulators continue to insist that their increased refinery production and requested special permits will pose no threat to our local environment. They assure the Great Lakes region that they will keep as much pollution out of Lake Michigan as possible. Why is it that those of us who use the water for everyday living, swimming, hunting, fishing, drinking and pure enjoyment, are still uneasy? Probably because their track record makes such claims dubious at best.
I guess I shouldn't be disappointed by such a ruling by The EPA. Afterall, it's groups like them and The Michigan DEQ that turned a blind eye to all the evidence in the Berkey & Gay Factory and Toxic Towers dumping scandal right here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I guess if these two groups couldn't properly decipher toxic soil analysis reports, understand video tapes of toxic wate being removed without authorization and false statements by all involved developers and construction crews who claimed "they did no wrong" yet the evidence showed to the contrary...why should we assume they would rule any differently when a company like British Petroleum wants to increase sludge, ammonia and mercury discharge before our very eyes? In the BP case, waste gets to be diluted out in the Big Lake. Problem solved.
There is clearly no "protection" for you and I, when it comes to The Environmental Protection Agency. Whether you live in Grand Rapids, on the Big Lake itself or anywhere in between.
Congress tried to raise the yellow flag and urge caution when it came to increased dumping in the Great Lakes - especially Lake Michigan. Unfortunately, verbal and written censure does little.
BP got the green flag for all systems full steam ahead - increase refinery production and pollution-a-go-go.
You and I get the red flag warning for rough waters ahead and I don't mean just big waves – swim at your own risk.
Editor, The Local Area Watch