BP fined $8,750 for waste water backup

IDEM says Whiting plant quickly contained spill
2007-07-21T00:00:00Z BP fined $8,750 for waste water backupPATRICK GUINANE
pguinane@nwitimes.com
317.637.9078
nwitimes.com

INDIANAPOLIS | State environmental regulators fined BP $8,750 this spring after a sump pump hose at the company's Whiting oil refinery malfunctioned last year, dumping 1,000 gallons of untreated waste water onto soil within the plant.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management could have levied up to $75,000 in daily penalties for the November hazardous waste spill. But an IDEM spokeswoman said the agency took into consideration BP's efforts to immediately notify the state and initiate cleanup procedures.

"There is a policy that looks at circumstances of the incident, and in this case they were extremely cooperative and responsive and worked with us from the very beginning to make sure that they were complying," IDEM spokeswoman Amy Hartsock said Friday.

The waste water overflowed from a sump unit near the refinery's filtration plant Nov. 18. Hartsock said the waste water comes in contact with sludges and solids produced as by-products of the refining process and could have contained oil residue and heavy metals, including lead.

BP finalized a cleanup agreement with IDEM in April, and Hartsock said the company soon will send the state samples showing whether all contamination has been removed from soil near the sump unit. She said an IDEM inspection last year concluded that none of the spilled waste water seeped outside the plant or into Lake Michigan.

"We always work cooperatively with regulators, and we're pleased that we've reached an agreement that ensures that the environment is protected," BP spokesman Scott Dean said.

State records show BP deployed vacuum trucks to recover the spilled waste water within hours of its release, and portions of the refinery were shut down while the sump pump hose was repaired. BP was cited for three hazardous waste violations, each of which carry a maximum fine of $25,000 per day.

Records indicate state officials had not cited the refinery for a similar hazardous release since 2001.

BP faced a wave of public criticism this week after news reports detailed a new state waste water permit allowing the Whiting plant to release 54 percent more ammonia and 35 percent more suspended solids into Lake Michigan. Company officials say the higher discharges, which fall within federal limits, are necessary as the refinery moves ahead with a $3.8 billion expansion to process heavier Canadian crude oil.

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