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Malfunction At BP Refinery Causes Oil Spill On Lake Michigan

WHITING, Ind. (CBS) -- Crude oil spilled onto the shore of Lake Michigan in Whiting, Ind., following an accident Monday afternoon at the BP refinery.

The EPA responded last night and found an area of about 5,000 square feet covered in crude oil.

"A disruption in the refining process resulted in a crude oil discharge from the BP Whiting Refinery's cooling water outfall into Lake Michigan at approximately 4:30 p.m. Monday," BP spokesman Scott Dean said in an email.

Cleanup was underway on Tuesday, and BP said the oil was contained to a cove located between the refinery's waste water treatment plant, and a steel mill.

Vacuum trucks were on hand to assist in the cleanup. Most of the oil was along the beach and not in the water.

The wind has helped the clean-up crews because it's pushed the oil into one section of the cove and the unseasonably cold weather is welcome, too.

"The cold weather has actually made the oil almost congeal to what was described to be as a waxy substance and you see the crews picking it up with flat shovels and putting it into trash bags and where it will then be properly disposed of," said Dean.

BP says it doesn't yet know how much oil was spilled, nor do they know the environmental impact, but Rebeccah Sanders of the Audubon Society is concerned about birds that will come there.

"Just north of us is important bird area for migratory birds and inland is Wolf Lake also an important area. Lots of bird activity and we want to make sure everyone is safe," said Sanders.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the EPA said the cleanup is just about finished and it appears there is no threat to people or wildlife.

Crews from BP, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management were taking part in the cleanup and investigation.

No injuries were reported.

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