How Petcoke Stacks Up

Aerial images show just how big Chicago’s toxic dust mountains really are.

July 16, 2015

A petcoke pile on the Calumet River.
Photo: Josh Mogerman

There are ocean people and mountain people, but I’m willing to bet no one in the latter category wants to live near petroleum coke mountains. Residents of Chicago certainly don’t, but that hasn’t kept KCXB Terminals, a company owned by the Koch brothers, from storing massive exposed heaps of petcoke on the city’s Southeast Side. The black dust, a by-product of refining oil, gets blown hither and yon, coating the surrounding neighborhood with a layer of lung-damaging particles.

To give a sense of the scale of these things, Curbed Chicago put together aerial views that compare the size of the dust mountains against some of the city’s best-known haunts. As you can see, they are—quite literally—a black spot on the cityscape.

The Southeast Side won a minor victory in February when KCXB announced it would close one of its sites and leave the other open as a transfer facility—the transportation of the stuff is still a concern, but the decision at the very least proves that ordinary citizens can move mountains.

Lincoln Park Zoo

McCormick Place

University of Illinois at Chicago

Humbolt Park

All images courtesy Curbed Chicago

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