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Tug Of War: Companies Say They Went To BP With Discharge Solution

Sewagemonster The Gary Post-Tribune, which deserves props for not losing track of several environmental permitting issues in Northwest Indiana over the past few months, updates us on the BP Whiting wastewater discharge issue. Who's telling the truth here?

"BP representatives say they haven't found a way to reduce the Whiting refinery's discharges of ammonia and suspended solids. But potential contractors, who say they can solve the problem with technology used at other refineries, say BP shut them out.

"'The thing is, we already have the technology. It's been developed,' said Steve Kennedy, president of South Bend-based Bioremediation Inc. 'We can help them. It's just whether or not they're willing to listen.'

"Kennedy's company sells microbes that eat ammonia and break it down to a nontoxic substance that settles at the bottom of a tank. The method can remove nearly all ammonia and 90 percent of suspended solids. Kennedy said it's being used by Exxon Mobile, Conoco Philips, Marathon and a number of municipal treatment plants, including the city of Philadelphia, which treats four times more wastewater per day than BP.

"A gallon of microbes costs $35 to $40 and can treat in the hundreds of thousands of gallons of municipal wastewater in a day, Kennedy said. He said he sent BP information about his company, but never got a reply.

"BP officials said they did respond."


Too bad we can't do a public records request on BP's communications the way we can on public agencies.

Why should BP respond to the remediation companies if they can get the state to approve their discharge permits without the extra expense? Perhaps now, BP will revisit the issue these remediation companies propose.

Congratulations are in order for the citizen activists, the papers and the local representatives who pursued this story and forced a reconsideration by the state!

Maybe his product works, and maybe it doesn't. I hope BP looks into, finds that it does work, and adopts it. However, I work in the environmental remediation business, and if I had a dollar for every time I was approached by a company that claimed to be able to solve a problem using microbes, but couldn't produce any evidence in support of those claims, I'd have long since retired. Sales claims don't always coincide with reality.

This was never about available technology to solve the problem. It was about cost savings.

Recently politics and retribution appear to be driving decisions at BP. They just announced that the company is planning to eliminate thousands of jobs in the Chicago area and transfer the corporate headquarters to Houston in what appears to be a response to the communities Whiting pollution outrage.

BP's slow response to the public's pollution concerns and eliminating area BP jobs will be the fuel for an even larger public outrage if the don't complete the refinery upgrade and expansion.

What's the status of the Governor's report on BP's environmental conflict he promised along with the report on technical solutions for water pollution from BP's blue ribbon panel?

Aren't both past due?

It's great that there were a bunch of environmentalists who tried to make a quick buck with their secret potion to clean the water, but the science behind these cheap solutions is rarely sound.

"The expansion of the BP refinery in Whiting can move ahead with existing technology that would keep the pollution it dumps into Lake Michigan at current levels and would mean only a small increase in the cost of the project, according to environmentalists and a report commissioned for the city of Chicago.

"The report, prepared by Tetra Tech, a California-based engineering firm, concluded that BP could upgrade the Whiting refinery's wastewater treatment plant for less than $40 million.

"'The information on technology we provided to BP is not exactly cutting-edge or emerging; it is in use now at other refineries,' John Deal said. 'We believe it can work at Whiting, too.'

"BP spokeswoman Valerie Corr acknowledged that the company had been provided the report but said she could not comment on the recommendations."

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