Before a sparse crowd last night, state officials fielded questions and comments about BP Oil's request to dump more pollutants into Lake Erie.
The company asked permission to increase the amount of treated oil, grease, ammonia, and suspended solids it discharges from its Toledo refinery, 4001 Cedar Point Rd., Oregon. Though residents speaking at the hearing were concerned, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency officials said the plan is within water-quality standards.
"We wouldn't allow them anything that would exceed water-quality regulations," said Naajy Abdullah of the EPA's Division of Surface Water. He added that those regulations were enacted to protect aquatic life and human health.
But that didn't mollify Judy Junga of Toledo, who worried that the continued flow of pollutants into the state's waterways - even if legal - was further damaging precarious waters.
The proposed increases were included in the company's permit renewal. The refinery disposal system is authorized to treat and discharge 34.7 million gallons per day into the Maumee Bay portion of Lake Erie.
"Does anybody ever look at the shape that the entire lake is in, or do you only look at BP? Well, BP is not the only one," Ms. Junga told officials yesterday at the hearing in Government Center in downtown Toledo. "Our bodies of water, especially in this area, have taken a beating."
An example of the change the company is requesting is upping the maximum level of treated oil and grease allowed into the water each day from 433 kilograms to 580 kilograms. Similarly, the company hopes to increase the maximum amount of treated ammonia it releases into the bay from 953 kilograms per day to 1,278 kilograms.
Sandra Bihn, chairman of the Maumee Bay Association, said that the numbers are overwhelming. Arguing that Maumee Bay should not be considered a part of Lake Erie when it comes to water-quality issues, Ms. Bihn said the shallow nature of the bay and its small area means pollutants likely affect it differently.
"I, too, have personally observed the black slick on the water, and it's very black, very ugly, and it just shouldn't be there in my opinion," Ms. Bihn said. "We would encourage BP to clean up their water discharge, not degrade it."
Frank Reynolds of the Ohio Fish Producers Association said that commercial fishermen worry about the amount of dead fish they find around the company's intake and outtake pipes.
He asked EPA officials to monitor the situation more closely and fine the company if necessary.
"Every fish we catch, we have to pay the state of Ohio 2 cents," he said. "I think BP should do the same."
No one from the company spoke at the hearing.
EPA officials will accept comments on the proposed permit until Thursday. A recommendation will then be developed and sent to the EPA director for a final decision.