East Side residents angry about 'black dust'

2013-10-24T22:45:00Z 2013-10-24T23:30:09Z East Side residents angry about 'black dust'Elvia Malagon elvia.malagon@nwi.com, (219) 933-3246 nwitimes.com
October 24, 2013 10:45 pm  • 

CHICAGO | More than 50 East Side residents crammed into the Wolfe Park Field house Thursday night to voice frustration with petroleum coke apparently seeping into their homes.

The material looks like black dust and, they said, it originates from the BP refinery in Whiting. However, most of the frustration Thursday was aimed at the KCBX Terminal where the material is stored.

KCBX Terminals Company representatives were not at the meeting. KCBX Terminals Company is a subsidiary of Koch Mineral Services, LLC, which is under the umbrella of Koch Industries, according to the company's website.

Kate Koval, of the Southeast Environmental Task Force, explained to the group the material and told the crowd how to report the material when found at their home. She said the goal of the group is to prove that KCBX is not complying with state regulations and ultimately hope to impact current regulations.

She said the group started to mobilize when a photo of a large black cloud in the East Side neighborhood started to circulate around Facebook.

Koval said residents have complained to her about the dust being found around their children's eyes and mouths.

Susanna Gomez, 37, who lives in the neighborhood, said she sees the dust everyday and thinks it's getting worse.

"The piles are getting bigger, I can see them from my window," Gomez told the crowd. "I have it everywhere, even on my kids."

Another woman told the crowd she has four children with vision problems and Vitamin D deficiencies. She said other neighbors have complained of similar problems and questioned if the dust is related to health problems.

Alderman John Pope, of the 10th Ward, asked the vocal crowd for patience. He said the company was told they couldn't put tarp over the large mounds of petroleum coke, but said that could provide a quick solution until they find a long-term solution.

He and representatives from the environmental group said the Illinois Attorney General's office and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency are investigating possible state violations by the company.

Though most of the meeting focused of what they could do to make sure KCBX Terminal was meeting environmental regulations, some residents implied they wanted the company out of their backyard.

The group ended the meeting with a chant:

"What do we want?" Koval asked.

"Move the piles," the crowd responded.

"When do we want it?" Koval yelled.

"Now."

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