Ojibwa BP temporarily halts gas sales over erosion concerns

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the temporary nature of the halt in gas sales. The Gazette apologizes for any confusion.

BARAGA — The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community temporarily closed gas sales at the Ojibwa BP station in Baraga due to concerns about erosion near an underground tank.

The tank has not leaked, said KBIC Tribal Council President Warren C. Swartz. But with the potential for high lake levels and fall weather events to further erode the embankment, the tribe wants to be safe, he said.

“I’m not an expert,” he said. “All I can do is look with my eyes and see there’s some erosion under the tank. So what we did is emptied the tank, and took away the threat.”

In addition to emptying the tank, the BP station also emptied the service lines. Swartz said Tuesday there is no estimate for when the station might reopen. The Gazette confirmed Wednesday morning the station had reopened and resumed gas sales.

The KBIC has notified the Environmental Protection Agency of the situation, the KBIC said in a release. Swartz said he had also notified Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office and the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE). With assistance from a consultant, the state, Intertribal Council of Michigan, and local governments, the KBIC is also developing an action plan for community and environmental health.

Swartz said they will also look at above-ground tanks, such as a village of Baraga tank near the village marina.

The disclosure goes above federal requirements, which only require notification if a spill has occurred.

“We’re trying to do this proactively,” Swartz said.

Ojibwa BP’s tanks were inspected in June and found to be in compliance with all standards. It remained compliant when checked again on Friday, the KBIC said in a release.

The gas station itself is still in compliance and continued selling all its products, the release said.