Opinion: Oil spill receives little coverage

Lake Michigan is a major point of pride for our state. No matter the season, many Michiganders flock to its cool waters to stare at its soft blue shoreline and admire its clarity.

Recently, however, that clarity was flecked with inky blackness. BP has done it again, and surprisingly little has been said about it.

On Mon., March 24, BP’s northwestern Indiana refinery malfunctioned, ultimately dumping crude oil into Lake Michigan.

BP Spokesman Scott Dean offered an explanation and made an attempt at comfort. He explained that the oil initially entered the refinery’s cooling system, which flows into the lake about 20 miles from Chicago.

Mike Beslow of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region five said that Chicago’s municipal water supplies should remain unaffected by the spill.

Though booms were set up as a preventative measure, oil covered around 2,700 feet of the company’s own private shoreline. While BP crews scrambled to suck up the oil, officials tried to determine how much oil was released. Dean stepped in to once again provide some flimsy reassurance. He said northerly winds somewhat contained the oil by directing it towards the shore.

Then, on Wednesday March 26, BP visually estimated that they spilled between 377 and 755 gallons of crude oil, according to an MLive article. But on Thursday, BP revised its maximum estimate, saying between 630 and 1,638 gallons were released.

Media coverage of this revision added an element of confusion for those trying to stay informed.

“Everything I’ve heard has contradicted another source,” said Meredith Barton, Canton sophomore and member of the school’s Center for Sustainability and the Environment (CSE).

Barton’s frustration is understandable. On March 27, MLive.com published an online article stating that Dean said the “vast majority” of the oil has since been collected, though he hadn’t heard about Thursday’s additional oil detection. But in the same article, MLive cited Dean as recognizing the revised estimates, claiming that that the new numbers reflect an expanded range. MLive.com published another article the following day reiterating the revised numbers.

Confusion aside, though, Barton said she’s heard very little about the spill, and her thoughts reflect those of other students who claim to have been unaware of the spill.

“There hasn’t been too much in the news or online, other than that this did happen,” Barton said. “I wish there was better coverage, since nothing is really being said about this problem. Especially with this happening so close to home, I wish there was more information about it.”

It’s unfortunate that such a significant news event has remained so obscure and that hasty news coverage has resulted in confusion for those trying to stay up to date.

Photo via fox17online.com

This story, originally posted April 14, was updated April 15 after the BP US Press Office contacted The Pleiad.  It now reflects a more accurate depiction of the published facts about this topic, taking into account information from a variety of online sources.

About Emma Planet 18 Articles
Emma is a first-year at Albion College from Sterling Heights, Michigan. She is pursuing a double-major in English and Environmental Studies as well as a pre-law concentration. She uses her writing to raise awareness about environmental issues and adores pretzels paired with junior mints. Add her on Twitter: @PlanetEmma29

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