December 2, 2013

Mayor Emanuel Launches Campaign Asking Residents to Report Petcoke

Residents Asked to Call 311 or Email Complaints in Latest Effort to Crackdown on Petcoke Emissions

Mayor's Press Office    312.744.3334

Mayor Rahm Emanuel today launched a new campaign encouraging residents to call 311 or email the City to report sightings of petroleum coke, or “petcoke,” the solid by-product of petroleum refining which is being stored outdoors at several facilities on the City’s Southeast side.  This new campaign is the latest effort by the Emanuel Administration to crack down on the emission of petcoke from these facilities to nearby residential areas.

“Just as we fought to shutter the two remaining coal power plants in Chicago, we will work to force these petroleum coke facilities to either clean up or shut down,” said Mayor Emanuel.  “Our priority will always be the health of our children and surrounding communities, not the profits of private companies.”

Petcoke emissions, carried by the wind from storage facilities, may resemble dust clouds and can accumulate as piles of fine black dust. This dust can act as a lung irritant and cause watery and itchy eyes and a cough.  To ensure the City and its State and Federal partners can track and address petcoke complaints, residents should report where the dust is being observed, its color and wind conditions.  A CDPH environmental inspector will respond to the complaint. 

This campaign comes on the heels of the lawsuit filed last week by the City and State Attorney General against the Beemsterboer facility seeking the removal of petcoke from that facility.  To further protect the health of residents and the environment, Mayor Emanuel has also directed the City’s Department of Public Health to draft strict regulations to crack down on harmful emission of petcoke.

“Petcoke dust is disrupting people’s lives, and reporting the dust and conditions in which it is found will help illuminate the extent and breadth of this issue,” said Ald. John Pope (10th). “Children and families in our communities should not be forced indoors because of petcoke dust.”

“Residents that live near these sites should not have to put up with worsening environmental conditions. The level of contamination and pollution is simply unacceptable,” Ald. George Cardenas, Chair of Committee on Health and Environment “I urge residents to report this nuisance whenever they come upon it.”

To report a sighting of petcoke dust, residents should call 311 or e-mail, and starting Monday, they can visit 311 online at  Information on petcoke is available at

Additional information about petcoke:      


  • Petcoke is a solid, carbon material derived as a byproduct of the oil refining process.  Petcoke is typically used as a fuel source in power plants
  • In southeast Chicago, there are a number of facilities along the Calumet River that store and transport different types of material piles, including coal and petcoke..
  • There are no known illnesses or health effects associated with petcoke dust, other than potentially acting as an irritant and causing watery and itchy eyes and a cough. This was the conclusion of a report issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) based on available scientific data. This report and its finding can be accessed at:
  • If you or a family member are experiencing any illness or health issue you believe is attributed to petcoke dust, bring this to the attention of your physician.