A byproduct of oil refining, petroleum coke (or petcoke for short) has become a major topic of concern as Chicago residents are being threatened by health complications associated with piles of the high-sulfur, high-carbon substance on the southeast side near the Calumet River. The most affected neighborhoods are burdened with black clouds of dust in the air from uncovered piles of petcoke and coal. Air pollution is already a growing concern in the neighborhood, and a monitor at the local high school regularly records the state’s highest levels of toxic metals such as chromium and cadmium, which are known to cause asthma and increase the risk of heart disease.
In order to address this issue, Governor Pat Quinn has proposed emergency rules on petcoke storage that are to go into effect statewide, with a goal to reduce pollution and make areas with petcoke safer for residents. The rules would regulate storage of bulk materials including petcoke, coal, ore, and other fuel materials. Some requirements will include the installation of dust suppression systems and enclosures for open petcoke piles.
These regulations are a start to safer air for Chicago residents. However, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Southeast Environmental Task Force said the emergency rules fall short, and Gov. Quinn needs to come through with more stringent regulations if we are to see a big change in air quality for the southeast side of our city.
This information comes from a Chicago Tribune article which you can access HERE