Principles of Urban Sustainability

“Pet Coke” Smothering the South Side

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There are many environmental and public health issues to worry about in Chicago, but one of the most obvious and threatening is also one of the most overlooked: the piles of raw dust called pet coke in the south side of the city. Pet coke is a byproduct of oil refining. Its basically whats left when gasoline gets taken out of raw oil. This stuff has been a problem for awhile, but it has only been a Chicago problem recently. In 2013 , BP “upgraded” its Whiting, Indiana refinery to be able to process heavier and dirtier oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada. This tripled the amount of pet coke that the refinery produced. All of that useless black dust had to go somewhere, and BP made a deal with a company called “KCBX Terminals” (owned by the notorious Koch Brothers) to store mountains of the stuff on three different sites in the south-east side of Chicago. All three of the sites are literally feet from residential neighborhoods. While BP and KCBX claim that they are taking “every precaution” to limit the effects of the dust on neighborhoods, the neighbors say otherwise. They tell of thin layers of black soot on sidewalks, homes, and parks. Some people have taken to power washing their entire houses every week while others simply close the windows and keep kids inside. The most effected areas also report increasing cases of asthma and allergies especially among children. This has to stop. Storing mountains of industrial waste next to lower income minority neighborhoods is a textbook case of environmental racism and such practices have no place in 2015. The sites need to be closed and cleaned now. While local groups have made progress through protests and letter writing campaigns, more needs to be done. Pet coke should be stored in remote areas and not in cities full of people. Getting the sites shut down would tremendously improve the quality of life for people in the south-east side and stop the asthma and cancers that stem from the dust.

References
-http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-10-18/news/ct-met-petcoke-20131018_1_whiting-refinery-other-u-s-refineries-petcoke
-www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/August-2015/KCBX-pet-coke

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