A Chicago law firm has filed a class action lawsuit against BP, Hammond-based Beemsterboer Slag Corp. and three other companies over the petroleum coke that has been stored along the Calumet River.
The Pavich law firm announced late Monday it is pursuing the litigation on behalf of five residents on Chicago's Southeast Side, where people have expressed concerns about large exposed piles of petcoke, a dusty byproduct of oil refining at the BP Whiting Refinery. The suit alleges that BP, Beemsterboer, KCBX Corp., Koch Carbon Co. and KM Railways LLC should have done more to prevent the powdery industrial byproduct from blowing into homes and properties.
The lawsuit — filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois — asks a judge to prohibit BP and the other companies from bringing petcoke to the densely populated South Side community. The suits also seeks reimbursement for environmental cleanup and any loss of value to properties.
Another class action suit has been filed in Cook County. The Illinois attorney general and city of Chicago also have sued Beemsterboer, asking for an injunction to require the company to remove the petcoke. The new lawsuit is the first to name BP.
"BP byproducts create this mess," attorney Kevin Rogers said. "It's a toxic material that's all over these neighborhoods. It's bad for kids who breathe it in, and it's filthy in the air and the soil."
BP spokesman Scott Dean said in an email that the lawsuit's claims against BP have no merit. He said KCBX is responsible for complying with regulations associated with the storage of petcoke.
"BP has been told by KCBX that it is in compliance with Illinois regulations and we are pleased that KCBX is making $10 million in improvements to the terminal that go beyond the requirements of its permit," Dean said. "BP is also in compliance at the Whiting refinery in Indiana."
Alan Beemsterboer said his company has been complying with the state of Illinois, removing carbon-based products from the site, and shipping them out on boats and barges. He said his company expected to remove the last of the carbon-based products by the end of the year.
Beemsterboer said slag, asphalt and coal have long been part of the heavily industrialized neighborhood for the past century. Republic Steel and Acme Steel both had mills and coke batteries where ovens baked coal into coke near the site where the petcoke has been stored.