This week all of Chicago has been up in arms about this Chicago Tribune Article stating that BP got approval from Indiana to dump more ammonia and industrial waste sludge chemicals into Lake Michigan, which is the source for the majority of the MidWest’s drinking water and one of the largest fresh water reserves in the world. In an age where every natural resource is waning and the costs are going up for these resource necessities many people thought it was unfair that BP could pay to dispose of more chemicals in the lake and reduce the quality of our fresh water. (Not to mention that the refinery is right off the Indiana Dunes Beach)
I live here in Chicago, so this is something that affects me directly. The Tribune article points out BP’s marketing as a “Green” company highlighting all their earth friendly practices, and leaving out things like this that hurt the environment. And this is the first increase that has happened in a long time, bringing up an old heated debate in Chicago about water quality because our drinking water comes from the waste dumping grounds for industry. We remember of the old Chicago River before it was reversed, and stories saying don’t ever eat a fish you catch in Lake Michigan because of the Mercury in them.
I didn’t actually read this in the paper or hear about it until a few days ago, and I wanted to see what BP’s side of the story was. They have pointed to another article that outlines both sides of the story from the Ft Wayne Sentinel. They have also issued this release in defense of their decision stating that it is well within the legal limits, the process has been improved with the expansion and overhaul that cost $3.8 Billion (and created jobs in Indiana, they always bring up the jobs) and the waste water is heavily treated before it is dumped into the lake. Whether this happens or not depends on if there are government and consumer groups that work with them to check on the levels that are actually being dumped months and years from now after this issue dies down. The other issue here is the growing demand for oil in Chicago and in the Midwest. They wouldn’t be expanding if all 9 million of us in Chicagoland didn’t use so much gas and oil here, so we (the consumers and citizens who own lots of cars) are somewhat driving this expansion and therefore the increased production that increases the waste level from the facility.
The bottom line is though that BP is a company like all other companies, has a purpose of maximizing profit and return for shareholders. Companies do not have the purpose or legal obligation of protecting the environment (beyond abiding by the law), their one and only purpose is to make money. If PR is bad they may change some practices, but it is unlikley they will change much unless it becomes illegal and they face legal actions and fines by the government. So, if the law allows these dumping practices for water and waste and they are within the boudaries of legal amouts they can, and will do it. They are under no legal obligation to install better water treatment facilities at their own expense unless they are breaking the laws of the clean water act.
If people/citizens/consumers feel that these laws are too leaniant they should take action to change them and make them more stringent to protect the earth and it’s limited resources. I don’t like that there is more pollution being added to Lake Michigan, but I do see that our growing city is demanding more oil to be refined, and untlil we the citizens change the laws and reduce our oil consumption, it is just as much our fault too.