New BP Toxic Petcoke Operations to Impact Residents of East Chicago Superfund Site

CHICAGO – Residents of East Chicago, Indiana are bracing for a significant expansion of the transportation of toxic petcoke in a city that has been ravaged by industrial pollution and drinking water contamination. 

City officials and residents expressed alarm over Canadian National’s plan to hold and transport toxic petcoke from BP’s Whiting refinery on a wetland site, next to a residential area and a heavily contaminated Superfund site that was evacuated in 2016 as a result of an emergency order. 

Several years ago, Chicago’s Southeast Side community organizations rallied against the open storage of petcoke piles that reached several stories in height, and the city responded by banning new or expanded petcoke operations and prohibiting outdoor storage of petcoke. However, Southeast Side residents continue to report black dust flying out rail cars transporting petcoke. Residents have also expressed concern about the cumulative impacts of air pollution in an area that is also regularly exposed to neurotoxins, heavy metals, and other dangerous air pollutants. 

The Southeast Side community that once housed BP’s piles of petcoke is only several miles from East Chicago, Indiana. 

Following statements are from community and environmental organizations that advocated for a petcoke ban in Chicago: 

“We fought for years to get this horrible toxic dust out of our neighborhood, and certainly not to have it placed into someone else’s” said Peggy Salazar, director of the Southeast Environmental Task Force (SETF). “Transporting this toxic dust through this environmental justice neighborhood means that it will be impossible to avoid for a community that is already overburdened with so much other pollution.” 

“The dirtiest industries are always forced on the most vulnerable communities,” said Gina Ramirez, Midwest outreach manager for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Our families are sick and tired of polluters being left unchecked as they put our families in harm’s way.” 

“As a Southeast Side resident, I know what it means to live with this toxic petcoke dust blowing in my neighborhood,” said Olga Bautista, co-chair of the Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke (SSCBP). “Petcoke destroys a person’s lungs, but it also feels horrible to constantly have to worry about your family’s health. It’s torture to see these giant piles of chemicals that are hurting you and while government agencies sit by and let it happen.” 


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.​