Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Chicagoans Wake-Up to Lake Michigan Pollution

Good news! More than 45,000 people have signed petitions, including the Save the Lake Petition, to stop the BP oil refinery from dumping more ammonia and sludge into Lake Michigan. And thank goodness, this issue has been featured in today's New York Times, so if you have a moment, I encourage you to read it. I first heard about this issue in May; I was astonished to discover that BP wants to dump 1,584 pounds of ammonia and up to 4,925 pounds of sludge everyday. What effects does this dumping have on plants and animals in Lake Michigan? And what effects does this dumping have on children and adults swimming in the lake?

And here's another question: What are the implications for stopping an increase in dumping pollutants into Lake Michigan? I'm guessing that the cost of gasoline will be affected if this permit is not granted. If this permit doesn't get passed, then maybe we'll have to pay even more money for gas. Imagine this: Would you be willing to pay $5/gallon for gasoline?

If I had to pay $5/gallon for gas, then it would alter my driving habits considerably. I already bike to work; well, my biking behavior would definitely increase. I would also think twice before hopping into car...I would ask myself if I really needed to drive to that destination and I would consider alternatives to driving to those locations. Maybe I would take the train to Chicago, as opposed to riding the bus. I would certainly drive less than I do now...no going to Saugatuck, which I'm driving to tomorrow!

Sure, I'm entertaining these questions now, but these questions would carry much more weight if the cost of gas were substantially raised. The gas issue also reminds me of Europeans, who are already accustomed to paying more for gas. So maybe it's about time we address how these issues (and implications) will affect our lifestyle behaviors.


Michelle Verges said...

Hmm...now for a bit of bad news. Soon after I blogged about Chicagoans protesting against BP polluting Lake Michigan, I heard a follow-up report about the EPA granting BP the permit to dump toxic chemicals into the lake.

What a disappointment...this news certainly chips away at my Pollyanna-ish demeaner.

And to add salt to these wounds, the EPA allowed two exemptions:

1. Prior to dumping pollutants, BP can mix these toxins with lake water to dilute the contamination. Although this process sounds benign, these so called 'mixing zones' pose health risks to fish, wildlife, and humans. This exemption also violates the Clean Water Act.

2. Provided the total volume of wastewater doesn't change, BP can increase its water pollution. That means they're allowed to dump up to 21 billion gallons of wastewater into Lake Michigan everyday.

So why the exemptions? I've not heard a satisfying answer. But in this case, it appears that economics has trumped environmentalism. According to Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, 80 jobs will be created at the BP oil refinery. And increasing the production of oil may keep gas prices low.

(I'd like to see the statistics on the last claim.)

Anyway, to read a recent article on this issue that was published in the Chicago Tribune, please click here:
BP Gets Break on Dumping in Lake

Experimentaholic said...

Yeah, well, we'll see if those 80 jobs gets him re-elected once people no longer can swim in that lake. Next time I'm in the UK I am going to take a piss in one of THEIR lakes and see how THEY like it!