INDIANAPOLIS — An initial assessment of a Lake Michigan oil spill shows that between nine and 18 barrels of crude oil entered the lake following a malfunction at oil giant BP's sprawling northwestern Indiana refinery, the U.S. Coast Guard said Wednesday.Coast Guard spokesman Chief Petty Officer Alan Haraf said the estimate came from BP's initial visual assessment Tuesday of the spill scene at the company's Whiting refinery some 20 miles southeast of downtown Chicago.
One barrel of oil contains about 42 gallons, meaning the estimate indicates between about 378 and 756 gallons of crude oil were released into the lake.
Haraf said a more accurate figure likely will be released later this week on how much oil entered the lake, where crews for BP continued their cleanup work Wednesday. Those crews deployed absorbent booms following the spill, which affected a half-mile of private shoreline that's owned by BP and is not accessible to the general public.
The Environmental Protection Agency, which is supervising the cleanup work with the U.S. Coast Guard, said Tuesday that BP crews had used vacuum trucks to suck up about 5,200 gallons of an oil and water mixture from the site and had also removed oil globs from the shoreline.
The EPA issued a brief statement Wednesday saying an assessment team from the agency, the Coast Guard and BP surveyed the spill site Wednesday and found "minimal oiling of the shoreline."
The EPA said the survey team has recommended that crews continue to scour the shoreline to manually remove any remaining oil.
BP said in a statement Wednesday that its crews "have recovered the vast majority of oil that had been visible on the surface" of a cove-like area where the spill occurred.
The company said it continues its work to calculate how much oil was released into the lake during the spill, which was discovered Monday.