Five Chicagoans were arrested Monday after staging a morning protest outside a Southeast Side petcoke facility and blocking its entrances, according to Rising Tide Chicago.
The activists, who saw support from local Chicago Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th), targeted KCBX's petcoke facility at 108th Street and Burley Avenue and claimed to have shut down operations there for over four hours.
Those who participated in the civil disobedience wanted to "stop the continued toxic petcoke particulate handling in their neighborhood," accoridng to a news release from the group.
Petcoke is an oil refining byproduct.
"In the two years our community has been fighting the open storage of petcoke, I have had a baby. I live in constant fear of my seven month old son have respiratory problems. I am disgusted by corporations putting their profits over the health of our community," Southeast Sider Kate Koval, who participated in the protest, said in the release. "I feel like we have gone through all of the formal complaint processes and it is time to take direct action. I don't know what else to do to protect the health of my baby."
Also among the protesters was the Rev. Jim Galuhn with the East Side United Methodist Church.
"This action is a witness for environmental justice on behalf of the people who live here, who breath the air polluted by petcoke. We think of our children, especially our neighborhood schools that asthma vans that must regularly come to treat," he was quoted as saying. "This action is for them. It is a non-violent witness to seek support from our politicians and those interested in the growth and development of this part of the city."
In response to Monday's protest, KCBX referred Progress Illinois to a statement released by the company earlier this month after it was the target of another environmental demonstration:
KCBX has handled petroleum coke and other bulk materials in Chicago for more than 20 years. Throughout this history, we have always sought to operate our facility with the utmost respect for our neighbors and the environment, and that remains the case today.
Nearly two years of air monitoring data show that air quality near the KCBX terminals is consistent with federal clean air standards. Independent laboratories also have conducted tests on more than 100 soil and surface samples from the neighborhoods near the terminals and found no evidence of coal or petcoke dust. In addition, the EPA determined that blackened home air furnace filters, which were alleged to contain dust from our operations, do not contain petcoke. Finally, the EPA's own ambient air monitor located a couple blocks from our Burley Avenue terminal at Washington High School has never exceeded national air standards for dust that could be associated with coal or petcoke.
We have invested more than $30 million in improvements, including a new dust suppression system at our Burley Avenue terminal. We recently closed our otherterminal and we are committed to continuing to operate our remaining site on Burley Avenue in full compliance with Chicago's new rules, which call for the enclosure or removal of all product piles by June of next year.
Petroleum coke is an important product that has many uses, including energy generation and the production of cement, steel, aluminum and other specialty products. It is not considered toxic, but even so, KCBX has adopted practices to manage the potential for dust.