A tar sands oil spill in Lake Michigan on Monday is more than double the size of original estimates, oil giant BP announced Friday amid growing anger against the company known for its massive toxic catastrophes.
The new estimates of the spill that originated at BP's Whiting refinery in Northwest Indiana reveal up to 1,638 gallons, or 39 barrels, likely leaked. Original estimates put the spill at around nine to 18 barrels.
However, BP said its latest estimates were based on the amount of oil "collected by vacuum trucks and absorbent booms, along with an inventory of the waxy balls of oil that cleanup crews scoured from a beach on BP’s property," the Chicago Tribune reports.
This begs the question: What about the oil BP hasn't vacuumed up?
Tar Sands bitumen, which is processed at the plant, is very heavy compared to conventional oil and is known to sink in freshwater.
"Although some of the oil has been cleaned up, it's unclear how much is left in the lake, a drinking water source for about seven million Chicagoans," writes Steve Horn at the DeSmog Blog.
On Friday afternoon, local environmental groups in Chicago including the Global Climate Convergence, Tarsands Free Midwest, Rising Tide Chicago, and Michigan Coalition Against Tarsands are holding a rally, calling on the federal government to put BP back on the federal no contract list and for the the EPA to immediately begin testing local drinking water—amongst other demands.
Despite BP's history, including the largest oil disaster in U.S. history in the Gulf of Mexico, the EPA recently removed a ban on BP drilling contracts and new leases in the U.S.
"Not surprisingly, BP is still spilling oil all over America," writes DS Wright at FireDogLake. "A thoroughly predictable outcome given the near-complete pass they received after the Gulf Coast spill. This time it is one of America’s Great Lakes that is being polluted by BP’s reckless behavior, Lake Michigan."
"This serves as further evidence that the reliance on fossil fuels in all its forms has serious and long term effects on the health of the planet and the people who inhabit," the groups stated Friday ahead of the really. "This is doubly true in the case of the processing or tar sands that goes on at BP’s Whiting facility. This most current spill comes after years of legal challenges to the Whiting plant that is one of the largest sources of industrial pollution in the nation."
The coalition says that alternative energy sources are available and that the government, both locally and federally, must finally step up to make the transition away from the carbon-intensive processes that fuel the modern world.
"Failure to do so," they warn, "will only lead to further spills and environmental devastation. We don’t want another Deepwater Horizon on the shores of Chicago and yet with this spill BP demonstrates again that they they put their profits above the the lives of the people who inhabit our city and our world."