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Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced today that the Calumet Transload Facility has removed illegally-stored metallurgical coke (metcoke) and coal materials from its location on the Southeast Side of Chicago following the City’s issuance of a cease and desist order on August 7, 2014. An administrative law judge also imposed a $50,000 fine on the company for violating the cease and desist order for ten days. In response to pressure from the City, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the State, and community leaders, the Beemsterboer family – the owners of the Calumet Transload Facility – has also decided to discontinue its storage of petroleum coke (petcoke) and have put its property at 2900 E. 106th Street up for sale.
“The City’s residents and our air quality are protected now that the harmful effects of petcoke residue from this major facility are out of this community,” said Mayor Emanuel. “We take this issue very seriously and will not let any company or individuals violate our law and hurt our quality of life in order to make a quick buck.”
“Petcoke and similar materials are lung irritants that can exacerbate health problems like asthma,” said CDPH Commissioner Bechara Choucair, M.D. “To ensure our residents can breathe clean air, we have not only championed tough new laws and regulations, we are following up to make sure they are enforced.”
The City brought Calumet Transload to an administrative hearing and sought the maximum fine of $50,000 for illegally storing coke and coal materials at its facility for ten days after the City’s issuance of a cease and desist order on August 7, 2014. On September 18, the administrative law judge imposed a fine of $50,000 on Calumet Transload.
At the time of the issuance of the order, Calumet Transload was storing approximately 12,000 tons of coke material at their facility and planned to bring an additional 8,000 tons to the site, which is the equivalent of 400 dump trucks of coke. After receiving the cease and desist order, Calumet Transload still attempted to transport several truckloads of additional material onto the site in violation of the order; City personnel blocked the entrance and turned the trucks away.
The City’s action against Calumet Transload represented its latest effort to crack down on facilities that store coke, petcoke, and coal – materials that create harmful dust emissions. In February, Mayor Emanuel joined Alderman John Pope (10th) and Alderman Ed Burke (14th) to introduce an ordinance that bans new petcoke, coke and coal facilities and prohibits existing facilities from expanding. The ordinance passed in April.
“Supporting this ordinance early on was the right choice as this community is safer now that the hazards of petcoke have been removed,” said Alderman Pope. “The safety and health of our neighborhoods is a priority. We will continue to make sure that businesses follow the letter of the law and do not put our health at risk.”
Earlier this year, the Chicago Department of Public Health finalized new regulations related to the handling and storing of bulk materials, including petcoke. Those regulations require companies that currently transport or store petcoke to fully enclose their facilities and adopt other best management practices to prevent the spread of these materials into the air.
In late 2013, the City and Attorney General Madigan sued the Beemsterboers for air pollution violations involving storage of petcoke at their 106th Street facility. On December 19, 2013, the City and Attorney General entered into an agreed interim order with owner George J. Beemsterboer, Inc. and Beemsterboer Slag Corp. that required the company to remove piles of petcoke and metcoke and to document where the materials are sent.
“The City has sent a powerful signal that it will aggressively enforce this new law by advocating for substantial fines against violators.” said Alderman Edward M. Burke. “My mission is to protect the air quality of Chicago’s neighborhoods, and I will do everything in my power to achieve that goal.”
In response to continued pressure from the City, Attorney General Madigan, and community advocates, the Beemsterboer family has withdrawn its applications for state permits to store petcoke and decided to sell its facility on the Southeast Side of Chicago. The company has removed all petcoke from its Chicago facility, leaving KCBX as the only company transferring bulk petcoke in Chicago.
Petcoke is a solid carbon material derived as a byproduct of the oil refining process and is typically used as a fuel source in power plants. A significant amount of pet coke is produced by the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana, and it is anticipated that the amount of pet coke produced by this facility will triple in the coming year due to an influx of oil from Canada and recent upgrades made to the facility.
Petcoke generally contains high concentrations of carbon and sulfur, and also may include trace elements of metals such as vanadium, nickel, chromium and lead. Inhaling pet coke can contribute to serious respiratory health problems, particularly for individuals who suffer from heart and lung disease and asthma.
Met coke is a carbon material resulting from the manufactured processing of blends of bituminous coal.
The City also asks residents who observe coke or coal dust in their neighborhoods to report it to 311 or by emailing email@example.com. Additional information can be found at www.cityofchicago.org/petcoke.