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EPA cites BP’s Whiting, Ind., Refinery for Clean-Air Violations

US Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 has cited BP Products North America Inc. for alleged Clean Air Act violations at the company’s Whiting, Indiana petroleum refinery.

EPA alleges that for calendar years 2003 through 2008 BP failed to manage and treat benzene waste from the facility as required by the national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants. The facility’s 2008 report showed that benzene waste was almost 16 times the amount allowed.

These are preliminary findings of violations. To resolve them, EPA may issue a compliance order, assess an administrative penalty or bring suit against the company in federal court. BP has 30 days from receipt of the notice to meet with EPA to discuss resolving the allegations.

Benzene is known to cause cancer in humans. Acute health effects from benzene exposure can include dizziness and lightheadedness; eye, nose and throat irritation; upset stomach and vomiting; irregular heartbeat; convulsions and death. Ecological effects include death in exposed animal, bird and fish populations and death or reduced growth rate in plant life.

The Whiting refinery was the focus of earlier controversy over a planned, permitted increase in the daily discharge of ammonia and total suspended solids into Lake Michigan to enable it to increase the amount of Canadian heavy crude it can process. To resolve that issue, BP in 2008 promised to operate the refinery to meet the lower discharge limits contained in the refinery’s previous wastewater treatment permit. (Earlier post.)

The Whiting refinery, which began operation in 1890 producing kerosene, is now the largest inland refinery in the US and the nation’s third largest overall. It has a processing capability of more than 400,000 barrels per day. BP’s Whiting Refinery currently produces about 4.5 billion gallons of transportation fuels each year, enough to supply more than 5 million vehicles. With the planned upgrade, the refinery will have the potential to supply motor fuels to about 6 million automobiles.


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