The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Neighborhood Fight to End Petcoke Dust Gets Big Boost

By JoshMogerman in News on Nov 18, 2013 5:10PM

Petcoke pile viewed from the Calumet River. [jmogs]

We’ve been watching the shameful situation on the Southeast side where oil refining waste is being mounded up along the Calumet River.

Clouds of dust blown off the black mountains of petcoke, ashy leftover from the refining of heavy Canadian tar sands oil at the nearby BP refinery in Whiting, In., have coated homes in the area. And many worry it is also coating their lungs. But neighbors fighting to end the mess in their midst had a pretty good week.

On Thursday, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency got an earful from area residents at a hearing to discuss permit modifications for one of the petcoke storage sites. (Check out the video below, folks were not holding back!)

The Sun-Times reported that those present pushed hard against the permits, the blight of the mounds and the area’s ongoing fight to avoid becoming an environmental sacrifice zone for the region:

Agency officials met with residents at the Eastside United Methodist Church at 110th and Ewing to inform the community of KCBX Terminals Co.’s request for a permit revision to add conveyors and equipment to its facility near 107th and Burley.

“We are breathing this stuff every single day. That’s the incident,” said Sue Garza, a nearby resident who interrupted Frost. “And no one asked us if we wanted to have these piles dumped in the first place . . . We have been a toxic dumping ground here for over 100 years. We don’t want it anymore.”

Their concerns are getting responses. The Trib reported today that the US EPA is stepping in and ordering pollution monitors to be placed near the petcoke. The resulting data could be bad news the Koch Brothers’ KCBX terminals and the Beemsterboer Slag Company. Both are facing increased regulatory and legal scrutiny as the neighbors have pressed their concerns in the media.

And while most of the attention has been focused on dust clouds coming off the piles, we cannot help but wonder about a different pollution stream. Just how much of that gunk flowed into the Calumet River during the big storms that just came through Chicago?