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More on the BP Whiting Refinery, Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) and the refinery's wastewater discharges to and water intakes from Lake Michigan.......

This matter addresses a renewal of the wastewater permit for the refinery, which is increasing its utilization of heavy sour tarsand synthetic crude delivered to Whiting, IN through Enbridge Line 67 to Superior, WI and then south around the southern end of Lake Michigan.



See this link for a copy of Friday's IDEM public notice and the location/time of the public hearing in East Chicago, IN.

IDEM's web page on the BP Refinery renewal permit actions for both 2013 and 2007:

Four days after the Natural Resources Defense Council, Alliance for Great Lakes and
four other groups filed a 42 page comment at Monday's comment period deadline about the IDEM Draft NPDES wastewater discharge permit for the BP Whiting Petroleum Refinery......IDEM re-noticed the BP permit matter and scheduled a public hearing in
a public notice published Friday afternoon.

At this writing no one knows for sure why IDEM did the re-notice and the public hearing
announcement as these were not actions requested by the environmental coalition
of Lake Michigan and Clean Water Act stewards.   It is unknown whether
IDEM did it on its own initiative, or whether BP or EPA Region V requested the public hearing and/or re-opening of the public comment period.   Certainly what IDEM did with the announcement on Friday is unusual to happen in the world of state wastewater discharge permitting and public participation under the Federal Clean Water Act.

The comments filed by the environmental coalition identified several significant problems with IDEM's Draft National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)  Permit for the the BP Whiting [IN] Refinery.  The comments identified several defects in both BP's submittals and in IDEM's permit issuance decision that constitute serious breaches of Federal Clean Water Act permit issuance requirements.

The BP Refinery Permit is one of the most important industrial wastewater discharge permits for effluents released to Lake Michigan.   The BP Whiting Refinery has had certain process unit expansions and is going from about a 30-35% proportion of
tar sands synthetic crude to a 90+% tar sands synthetic crude utilization rate.  The refinery processes 420,000 barrels of crude feedstock per day.  

In the process, BP is increasing 10 different pollutant effluent concentrations in their waste discharged to Lake Michigan through a 'diffuser' - an end-of-discharge-pipe effluent dilution device which IDEM allowed BP to install in Lake Michigan after the 2007 permit was issued in  an attempt by BP to meet Great Lakes Water Quality Standards using the physical dilution method.  In 2007, IDEM allowed BP to use the dilution method without requiring BP to submit a demonstration required under EPA wastewater regulations for sources attempting to use dilution schemes to comply with water quality standards.   By using the dilution scheme, BP freed itself of effluent limitations that it had to meet under the present permit when IDEM failed to impose required technology-based effluent limitations that are a predicate to being allowed such dilution methods.  

The specific pollutant effluents to Lake Michigan that BP is increasing over 2006
effluents are selenium, sulfate, total dissolved solids, chlorides, arsenic, lead,
manganese, strontium, copper and vanadium.   Except for vanadium, all of the
pollution effluents that are increasing are unregulated under terms of the 2013 draft IDEM permit.  And because of the manner in which IDEM's antidegradation rules are written, BP is being allowed to cause these increased effluents and loads to Lake Michigan without going through any antidegradation review process under Indiana rules.

BP has also never reported any nitrate compound effluents on its EPA-required Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) reports when it discharges over 300,000 lbs of nitrate effluents to Lake Michigan every year.    Neither the current permit nor the IDEM-proposed Draft Permit contain any effluent limitations for nitrates.

Here is the link for NRDC Senior Attorney Ann Alexander's blog on
the BP NPDES renewal matter:

Here is the link for the enviro-coalition comments from NRDC, AGL, Save the Dunes
and others....warning -- 9+ MB PDF file and long download:

Conduct your own aerial inspection of the BP Whiting Refinery, including its process equipment, tank farms and its lakeside wastewater treatment plant built on a fill in Lake Michigan:

1:40 PM PT: In publishing this diary the reader is advised that I am writing as a significant participant in the IDEM/BP Whiting Refinery discharge permit matter as I have performed paid environmental consulting work authorized by the Alliance for Great Lakes water quality program in addressing the BP NPDES permit application and the IDEM Draft Permit.   This means I'm writing as an issue participant and not as an uninterested blogger on this particular diary.   My ethical professional obligations require these disclosures to the diary reader for proper context and transparency.

2:19 PM PT: Here is a report from the U.S. EPA Enforcement and Compliance Online system for the BP Whiting Refinery:

5:06 PM PT: Here is a 2011 EPA Toxic Release Inventory Report for the BP Whiting Refinery;  note that BP didn't report any effluents of nitrate compounds, which it discharges in considerable amounts:

Originally posted to LakeSuperior on Sat May 04, 2013 at 11:09 AM PDT.

Also republished by Chicago Kossacks, Motor City Kossacks, and Climate Hawks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Republished to Chicago Kossacks... (6+ / 0-)

    ...nothing like people peeing in our drinking water, eh?

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Sat May 04, 2013 at 11:20:45 AM PDT

    •  thanks for referring that message to CK (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JeffW, cotterperson, Lujane, Creosote
    •  The solution to pollution is dilution is a long- (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      standing position. Mother Nature as man's toilet is an accepted proposition. While corporate action is obviously too intense for natural systems to manage, even large numbers of hikers in the White Mountains have managed to make the streams unpotable by peeing in the woods. Waste disposal needs a lot more attention.
      It's not a matter of "picking on" industries. But, the fact is that "point source" pollution is easier to identify and eliminate.

      We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

      by hannah on Sat May 04, 2013 at 12:48:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm sorry, but the 'solution to pollution is (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JeffW, Creosote

        dilution' is not allowed for the BP Refinery unless they make a proper demonstration under 40 C.F.R. 125.3(e) & (f) in
        EPA's wastewater discharge regulations.

        However, neither BP's 2007 and 2013 permit applications, nor the IDEM 2007 and the 2013 Fact Sheets indicate that the agency considered the decision as taking place under this regulation, which you can read here:

        The diffuser is a dilution method subject to the requirements of this rule and 'the solution to pollution is dilution' in meeting Great Lakes Water Quality Standards is not allowed in the manner provided by IDEM and granted to BP, both in 2007 and in the present permit.

    •  Most of the satellite images I've seen of (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JeffW, Creosote

      the area appear to show littoral drift downshore to the east so the the proper analogy about industrial urination would have to address Michigan City, IN and other intakes to the east.

      •  Maybe so... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Calamity Jean

        ...but circulation eventually may bring it Chicago's way, and besides, doesn't Michigan City deserve not to be dealing with that waste, too?

        Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

        by JeffW on Sat May 04, 2013 at 04:35:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Never in the springtime (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          There is a phenomenon called the 'thermal bar' that forms in the springtime in Lake Michigan because of the maximum density of water at 4 deg F causes the first few kilometers of the lake from shore to not mix very much at all with the rest of the lake and this condition will persist for weeks and months at a time and extended many, many miles downshore.

  •  BP - known for backward, unprepared crap like (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, Lujane, JeffW

    this - they still think "dilution is the solution to pollution" NOT.
    Please stop approval of this insane bitumen processing plant and the dumping of their waste water into Lake Michigan.

    Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love. - Einstein

    by moose67 on Sat May 04, 2013 at 12:42:46 PM PDT

    •  It's already running... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...they jsut want to ramp up production, using existing pipelines for the diluted bitumin.

      Which has worked sooo well for Exxon-Mobil...

      Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

      by JeffW on Sat May 04, 2013 at 02:40:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The Clean Water Act is not a venue (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JeffW, Creosote

      to achieve anything like what you're suggesting at all.   We are acting here as conservation stewards of Lake Michigan and as public trust stewards of the Federal Clean Water Act, and not as stewards of liquid fuel selection and supply.  

      Any campaign to head off use of tar sands crude at the BP refinery that is initiated and prosecuted for that specific purpose alone .....that campaign was defeated long ago by the facts on the ground.

      When it comes to regulating petroleum refinery wastewater and ensuring that Indiana permits comply with the Clean Water Act at the BP Refinery, it is best to leave the anti-tar-sand-crude negative ideology and branding campaign aside......This is a teachable moment, and it is time to learn and understand issues of Lake Michigan water quality, and specifically how BP is performing on effluent control and other matters at the Whiting Refinery.

      Conservation stewards of Lake Michigan and water quality don't use unconnected ideologies to prosecute their issues and, instead, keep their eyes on the prize, which is ensuring the the permit issued to BP complies with the Clean Water Act and that this facility's wastewater effluents are brought under significantly more stringent regulation than they are presently subject to.

      There is also the matter of the fisheries damage caused by BP's primitive intake in Lake Michigan and the need to press BP, IDEM and EPA on these destructive intake designs and operations which will kill significant numbers of fish in all life stages.

      •  We're also here to enforce the Clean Water Act (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Under the Clean Water Act, compliance by an industrial discharger like the BP Whiting Refinery with the terms of their issued National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit means they are in compliance with the Federal Act.  

        What this means is that provisions of the Federal Clean Water Act and EPA Water Regulations that specify what
        a state-issued NPDES permit must contain and what standards for decisionmaking must be used in the permit issuance process-----all of those regulations are enforced by the public and citizens through the public comment process during the NPDES permit issuance process.

        Yes...we're 'citizen attorney generals' here using the public comment process as officers enforcing the Clean Water Act and EPA regulations.   So the proper attitude adjustment is that we're in a no bullshit, no ideology, 'just the facts' zone.

  •  Tweets or re-tweets of this notice to Twitter (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    are much appreciated.

  •  Thanks for your well-grounded and intelligent work (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Lake Superior. I appreciate the strength of your analysis of this situation and ability to articulate its specifics, and am glad you are there.

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