Surveyor demands data from BP on Lake Michigan oil spill

CROWN POINT, Ind. - Although the Coast Guard said it didn't find any more oil in Lake Michigan after a recent BP-refinery spill, a lake surveyor is demanding data from BP in order to figure out whether the oil reached a nearby drinking-water supplier's source.

A British Petroleum (BP) refinery in Whiting, Ind., had a malfunction March 24, discharging oil into Lake Michigan. Officials said roughly 15 to 39 barrels' worth of oil was let go into the lake. One barrel of oil contains roughly 42 gallons, meaning the estimate indicates between roughly 630 and 1,638 gallons of crude oil were spilled.

On Monday, the Associated Press reported that a Coast Guard, BP and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency assessment team checking the area near the Whiting refinery spotted no visible oil on the shore or in the water. Cleanup workers spent last week removing oil from about a half-mile section of shoreline.

Late Wednesday, however, NWITimes.com reported that the Lake County, Ind., surveyor is requesting a full account of the oil spill from BP.

Bill Emerson, Jr.'s office in Crown Point oversees stormwater drainage into the county. NWITimes.com said Emerson has sent BP a letter, demanding it to forward "the amount and type of oil that was discharged into Lake Michigan last week along with the physical and chemical properties of the oil discharged and the source data and calculations used to determine the amount discharged.

"Also when completed, please forward my office a copy of your internal investigation and any external investigations into this matter including your detailed plans to avoid discharges in the future," Emerson wrote.

Emerson said he's concerned because the spill was just 2 miles away from the Hammond Water Works intake, which pulls in water to be used as drinking water for a lot of people in northwest Indiana.

BP spokesman Scott Dean wrote to NWITimes.com: "We will respond to the surveyor directly, but it is important to note that the multiple assessments conducted by EPA and the Coast Guard found no evidence of oil outside the cove and therefore no risk to municipal water supplies."

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