Monday, July 23, 2007

BP factory in Whiting controversy

During my idealistic college days I was actively involved with a few environmental groups and during those times, I always viewed the oil companies as the villains - the worst environmental polluters. As I got older and wiser, I slowly realised that my extreme views might not necessarily be true. This may be partly due to the fact that I am surrounded by a lot of people in the oil industry, including my own family.

I realise that the oil industry players are aware of their social responsibilities and do contribute to minimise the environmental impact of their industrial activities. Now, whenever there is a controversy relating to a petroleum company, I do try to give them a chance to give their side of the story instead of rushing off to their gates with playcards to stage a protest as I might have done earlier.

One of the more recent controversies involve BP and their Factory in Whiting, Indiana. An article in the Chicago Tribune came heavily down on them, saying that
the massive BP oil refinery in Whiting, Ind., is planning to dump significantly more ammonia and industrial sludge into Lake Michigan, running counter to years of efforts to clean up the Great Lakes.

I am sure that any environmentally aware person would have a negative perception about the plant after reading the article. However, I only learnt later that this article does miss out on some facts.

Only treated water is released into Lake Michigan (more than 99.9% water) from the factory and not sludge. The sludge is treated seperately and not released into the lake. The discharge from the factory is also well within legal limits and even then. it will still be less than half of that allowed by federal environmental guidelines.

I was quite pleased to learn that the refinery voluntarily reduced total suspended solids in its water discharge by 40% in just the past four years. BP has also announced plans to invest about $150 million to enhance the refinery’s wastewater treatment capability. I am sure BP plans to work closely and in a transparent manner with the authorities, the environmental groups and most importantly, the local communities that live near the lake.

Check out the BP Whiting Refinery Fact Sheet for yourself.

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