State

Penalties under review over Indiana refinery spill

WHITING, Ind. – A Coast Guard hearing officer will decide whether BP will face any fines, penalties or corrective actions for an oil spill into Lake Michigan last month from the company’s northwestern Indiana refinery.

The Coast Guard has completed its investigation into the spill March 24 in Whiting and forwarded its findings to the hearing officer in Washington, D.C., Lt. Brian Dykens told The Times of Munster.

Crews spent several days cleaning up oil along the Lake Michigan shoreline after the company reported that a malfunction at the refinery caused up to 1,600 gallons of oil being discharged into the lake.

BP spokesman Scott Dean said its investigation into the spill is focusing on a now-removed connection between a crude distillation unit and the cooling water system. Representatives from the Coast Guard, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and BP determined the cleanup was complete April 4 after they saw no more sheen and found no more oil.

The Coast Guard and EPA plan to do a follow-up inspection this summer of the lake, which is a source of drinking water for millions of people.

“Time allows nature to move around, and maybe wash oil ashore on the rocks or come up from the bottom,” Dykes said. “We will cover that whole area to see if we missed anything.”

The Coast Guard also will determine whether BP violated the Clean Water Act.

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