Indiana continues to allow BP to dump toxic mercury into Lake Michigan… spelling doom for mankind

WhitingRefineryA little over two years ago, we had a conversation on this site about what recourse, if any, the people of Michigan might have against Indiana for giving British Petroleum (BP) the go-ahead to disregard laws concerning the dumping of hazardous chemicals, and discharge unprecedented amounts of ammonia and toxic, heavy metal sludge into Lake Michigan, the enormously important fresh water resource that our two states share. Well, it would appear that not much has changed since then, in spite of BP’s assurances that safeguards would be put in place. In fact, according to an article in this weekend’s Chicago Tribune, this special exemption will continue, allowing BP to discharge “an annual average of 23.1 parts per trillion of mercury — nearly 20 times the federal water quality standard for Great Lakes polluters.” Here’s a clip:

Faced with public outrage and congressional pressure, the oil company BP vowed six years ago to develop cutting-edge technology that could sharply reduce toxic mercury discharged into Lake Michigan by its massive refinery about 20 miles southeast of downtown Chicago.

BP enlisted scientists at Argonne National Laboratory and the Purdue-Calumet Water Institute to come up with methods that company officials said could set a model for factories and sewage treatment plants throughout the Great Lakes region. But despite promising results from two options tested, a new draft permit from Indiana regulators allows BP to avoid installing the mercury-filtering equipment at the Whiting refinery.

Under the terms of an earlier decision by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the BP refinery can legally discharge an annual average of 23.1 parts per trillion of mercury — nearly 20 times the federal water quality standard for Great Lakes polluters. The proposed new permit would allow that special exemption to continue indefinitely.

Though the amount of mercury that BP’s treatment plant puts into the lake is small compared with what falls into the water from air pollution, the federal limit of 1.3 parts per trillion reflects decades of research showing that even tiny drops of the brain-damaging metal can contaminate fish and threaten people. The Whiting refinery is among a handful of industrial polluters that still release mercury-laden wastewater into southern Lake Michigan, according to federal records…

Mercury1As much as I’m comforted by the fact that most of the “brain-damaging metal” that finds its way into Lake Michigan does so through the burning of fossil fuels (like those sold by BP), and not the direct dumping of toxic waste, as in this case, I still think that we might want to ask companies like BP – a company, by the way, which made $16.6 billion in profits in just the three first three months of 2013 – to invest just a little in protecting the largest reservoir of fresh water that our country has.

But, it’s not hard to see how this happens, given that BP buys politicians… Here, with more on that, is a quote from our friend Juan Cole: “The Indiana legislature passed these laws because of ‘legislative capture.’ That phenomenon occurs when an industry that is supposed to be regulated by a legislature instead pays so much for political campaigns that it captures the members and proves able to write the legislation affecting its interests. Legislative capture explains almost everything that is wrong with America today, from the wars to the difficulty in expanding health care, and from inaction on climate change to the high price of prescription drugs.”

The irony is, at this very moment, the leaders of BP America live their lives without fear while our country devotes its considerable resources to finding Edward Snowden and brining him to justice… I don;t know about you, but I think it’s time that we reevaluate our definition of “treason.”

[The image directly above comes by way of, a site which has the following to say about mercury: “A neurotoxin, chronic exposure to mercury potentially results in memory loss, speech difficulties, troubles with vision, and cardiovascular problems in adults. It can also critically affect development, and an estimated 5,000 to 9,000 children born in Wisconsin every year are at risk of developmental and cognitive issues as a result of mercury consumption. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Department of Health currently list every inland body of water in the state under a fish consumption advisory because of mercury pollution.”]

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  1. gitche gumby
    Posted June 23, 2013 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    Canada, has made a nice website about the rather dramatic decline of our Lakes: Spend some time there. Fun.

    Rather sad, we, Michigan, the “Great Lakes State,” have made nothing even close to comparable. All of us who wear the lakes on our t-shirts and cars should, well, take a little more ownership.

    Canada, has been making such statements since, oh, 1968?

    (Have to say, Bill Mason is a personal hero of mine. His canoe is in the “Canadian Canoe Museum.” [They have one.] I think you can watch all of “Water Walker” on YouTube.)

    I’ll put this out there to see if anyone else is interested, but I think one of the rare uses for a Michigan Militia would be to do a few missions to Indiana.

    Or, maybe we let Canada handle it.

  2. Edward
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    It’s just the largest fresh water reserve that we have. I don’t know what you’re getting so upset about.

  3. Edward
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    Great Lakes facts:

    * The Great Lakes have 84% of North America’s surface fresh water.
    * The Great Lakes have about 21% of the world’s supply of surface fresh water.

  4. Eel
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Here’s another fact.

    The CEO of BP, and his shareholders, don’t give a fuck about the quality of water that you and I are leaving for our grandkids. They care about profits. With profits, they can buy vacation homes in the mountains with prisine wells full of pure sparkling water. They are insulated from the degradation they leave in their wake. We need to change that. We need to shit toxic sludge in their wells.

  5. Kristin
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Not that they’re the only ones….

  6. double anonymous
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    I’d love it if the Michigan Militia was a highly trained tactical team like the old Mission Impossible crew, instead of a bunch of terrified racist rednecks. How beautiful would it be if they went undercover into Koch Inc and tore the whole thing down from the inside by convincing each brother that the other was out to get him?

  7. Facebook Stalker
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Mark Maynard from Facebook:

    “If Israel can send commando teams out to blow up nuclear facilities in other countries, arguing that they would constitute a significant threat, why can’t Canada send covert teams into Indiana?”

  8. Sparklemotion
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Well eel, what is stopping you?

  9. 734
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    We should go to their board meeting and make them all drink the water.

  10. gitche gumby
    Posted June 26, 2013 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    So … a little closer to home. Does anyone know where, exactly, the waters of the Huron become toxic? I drive up to Kent Lake (Kensington Metro/Island Lake St. Park) where it is widely acceptable to swim our Huron River waters.

    It would seem that somewhere between Milford and home the water becomes something not to touch.

    Around I-96, there is much splashing and dunking and floating and happy wetness …

    I have a river a few blocks from my home. I drive 20+ miles north to swim in the same damn river.

    Nobody in A2 seems to swim in their long, lovely stretches of park either.

    We have a fine looking river. It gets hot. People swim in it a few short miles north.

    At what point does the Huron (which empties into a great lake … this is remotely relevant to the original post) become toxic to flesh?

    Why can we swim at Island Lake but not, a relatively few miles south, at Riverside park?

    Imagine an Ypsilanti where we could all cool down in the river. Can anyone explain why we can’t … or don’t? What happens to the river between Milford and home? (Whatever it is, must end up in Lake Erie.)

  11. gitche gumby
    Posted June 26, 2013 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    It seems far fetched, I know … because no one swims in the Huron much far south of I-96.

    But why? It’s not that much distance. If Kent Lake is swimmable, it should be conceivable that we can be.

    Imagine, if we can, that Frog Island was returned to an Island. (The soccer field can be moved to Riverside or Water Works.) Imagine if, just behind Depot Town, there was a beach where people swam. All kinds of people. Enjoying the river with their skin.

    The same water that they enjoy in Oakland County runs past us. Through us. If we can define what defiles the water in the miles in between … we might dive in!

    (Really, for those seeking to make Ypsi a great place to live … why don’t we have a public beach when we have a river?)

  12. gitche gumby
    Posted June 26, 2013 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    Why don’t we have a public beach when we have a river?

  13. Meta
    Posted June 30, 2013 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    “Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin have called for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to step in. That’s probably what it’s going to take here.”,0,2579017.story

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] and speaking of pollution in Lake Michigan, did you hear about the most recent nuclear plant spill? While I’d like to think that […]

  2. […] Indiana continues to allow BP to dump toxic mercury into Lake Michigan… spelling doom for mank…: […]

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