Officials with KCBX Terminals Company, one of the petcoke storage facility operators on Chicago's Southeast Side, are prepared to take legal action against the city if the firm is not allowed to delay enclosing its petcoke piles for four years.
Southeast Side Chicagoans are sounding the alarm on the latest environmental and public safety issue impacting their communities — an alleged uptick in trains transporting uncovered piles of petcoke, a byproduct of oil refining.
Over the past two months, some Southeast Side residents say they have noticed increased train traffic on old rail lines in the Hegewisch community that have previously been unused for many years. The trains, many of which pull more than 100 cars, are moving in and out of the area day and night, said Tom Shepherd of the Southeast Environmental Task Force.
Shepherd said the trains are carrying unenclosed petcoke, which is mostly coming from the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana and stockpiled at storage facilities along the Calumet River on Chicago's far Southeast Side.
Registered nurses and community activists rallied at Chicago's City Hall Monday afternoon, demanding that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and council members install an immediate moratorium on all petcoke operations in the city.
Chanting "Moratorium now!", dozens of Southeast Side residents, members of National Nurses United and other allies delivered a letter to the mayor's office, urging Chicago's elected officials to "cease all petcoke operations, transport and storage within the city until it is learned what impact petcoke has on the health of Chicagoans or until the piles are enclosed."