Recent spill triggers closer look at tar sands shipping on Great Lakes

Apr 1, 2014

Demonstrators gather in Chicago to protest the BP oil spill in Lake Michigan.
Credit Flickr - BobboSphere

Last week, as much as 1,600 gallons of oil spilled into Lake Michigan from the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana, 20 miles from Chicago. After a week-long cleanup, authorities say they have found no further trace of spilled oil in the area. However, the political ramifications of the spill are likely to remain long after this incident. The BP refinery processes oil from tar sands found in Canada. Tar sands contain a thick petroleum that’s gaining popularity as a new energy source. New technology is making it easier to mine tar sands, but some worry that could increase the likelihood of more spills like the one last week.

Lyman Welch is the water quality program director for the Alliance for the Great Lakes. Welch is also an attorney specializing in environmental law. He says there have long been concerns over spill response and prevention procedures around the Great Lakes in the U.S. and in Canada.