CROWN POINT | The Lake County surveyor and his re-election challenger traded another flurry of accusations.
Surveyor George Van Til said Monday that his opponent, Republican Eric Krieg, if elected surveyor, would have a built-in conflict of interest if he had to deal with pipeline companies that transport petroleum products across Lake County.
Van Til said Krieg has refused to give up his job as an engineer at the BP Whiting Refinery if elected. Van Til said BP had two pipelines and competes against other pipeline firms, including Enbridge, Buckeye, Marathon, Explorer Wolverine and ANR.
Van Til, whose office oversees drainage waterways, states, "I serve unhampered by any outside business interests."
He said he recently worked with Enbridge Inc., a Canada-based energy company, to ensure the company provides more shut-off valves and a thicker pipe casing to ensure against oil spills, such as those that took place two years ago in Michigan and Illinois.
Van Til said he has been in a dispute with BP in his efforts to make the company install its pipelines beneath drainage ditches. He said the exposed BP pipelines over ditches currently can cause water flow blockages.
Krieg responded Monday that he once worked for a pipeline company, but doesn't work for BP's pipeline division, so he doesn't have a conflict. Krieg said Van Til insisted Krieg was sidestepping the issue.
"My professional engineer license requires me to put the health and safety of the public well before any financial considerations," Krieg said. "If I didn't, I could lose my license and livelihood."
Krieg said Van Til's insistence on more pipeline shut-off valves "could make it more likely that there would be a leak."
"Valves fail 10 to 100 times more frequently than the rest of the pipeline," he said.
Krieg said pipeline companies typically increase pipe thickness in sensitive areas, "so to me, Van Til is grandstanding a little bit."
Krieg said the more important issue is that Van Til has raised and spent little money since the end of the Democratic primary in May.
"This shows that Democrats who normally help Van Til have given up on his campaign, as has Van Til himself," Krieg said.
Van Til said most Democrats dial down their campaign fundraising and spending in the fall unless they candidates are in competitive general election races.
"That's not important. That's inside baseball," Van Til said.