Poof! Go the Petcoke Piles, But Neighbors Still Bracing for Fight in Chicago
CHICAGO (July 28, 2015) – A letter quietly issued by the City of Chicago ensures that black mounds of oil refining waste will disappear from the landscape of Chicago’s Southeast Side.
The letter sent to KCBX Terminals Company late last month contains an administrative order assigning its south facility (near 108th and Burley) a maximum-daily-amount-held-on-site limit for coal and petcoke of zero. Noting the planned transition of the site from storage to a transfer facility, the letter essentially instructs the company that petcoke and coal can pass through the site, but may not be piled or stored there, even for a single day, as of June 9, 2016. The administrative order stands as another win for neighbors who have been pushing for removal of controversial petcoke facilities along the Calumet River and comes on the heels of another order from the City effectively banishing petcoke piles from KCBX’s other facility at 100th and Commercial.
Neighbors remain on edge, waiting for a decision from the City on the site’s annual “throughput” rate, which will determine how much of the material can move through the site, and so the remaining impacts from the site as a whole. The City committed to setting such limits last December, following up on advocates’ insistence that the City track and limit the amount of coke and coal handled by existing facilities within its bounds. The City has not announced when it will set the throughput limit, despite an ordinance with a deadline of March 2015 for both limits.
Petcoke and coal are sources of dust particles that become airborne when the materials are moved or otherwise disturbed. This “particulate matter” can significantly harm human health when inhaled. Exposure to particulates is associated with respiratory and cardiac problems, including asthma, decreased lung function, and premature death.
Following is a joint statement from Southeast Environmental Task Force Executive Director Peggy Salazar and Natural Resources Defense Council Midwest Attorney Meleah Geertsma:
“The neighbors don’t believe that petcoke has a place so close to their homes, parks and schools. We agree. Booting KCBX’s piles is another important step in that direction. We hope the City will take the final step of completely eliminating petcoke from the Southeast Side.
“Just because the piles are going to disappear, doesn’t mean the problem is fixed.
“Out of sight is not out of mind in this case because the burden will not be lifted as long as constant boat, barge, train and truck traffic from an industrial petcoke transfer site brings health and quality of life impacts to the area. The neighbors are calling for a zero annual throughput rate, and we think it makes sense, too.”
Chicago Magazine included a 10-page photo spread highlighting the situation on the Southeast Side in its August issue. The article is now available online at: http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/August-2015/KCBX-pet-coke/