Illinois Senator Dick Durbin visits petcoke storage facility in SE Chicago

December 16, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Senator Durbin visited a community where residents say something needs to be done to protect them from the dust produced from storing the petroleum by-product.

When weather and wind conditions are right, the storage hills of petcoke below produce dust that visits the neighbors.

''Everytime you wipe your house, you could wipe it. Today, tomorrow, all you have is a bunch of black stuff,'' said resident Melody Castillo.

Durbin led a delegation on a visit along the perimeter of the petcoke yards - talking with a nearby resident whose children have asthma - and saying there needs to be stronger regulation of petcoke storage.

''The companies should be warned right here and now, we're not going to quit. As long as these piles are sitting here - blowing this dust into the community causing health problems, then they're in for a fight," Senator Durbin said.

The operator of the biggest site on the Calumet River, KCBX, believes it is a good neighbor, and has installed 42 pole-mounted water cannons to suppress any rising dust. Neighbors are skeptical. In the next several weeks, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will be installing air quality monitors around the site.

''If we find there are violations of national ambient air quality standards, despite the use of water cannons, that will dictate whether further action is necessary, said Susan Hedmond, an EPA Administrator.

Some petcoke storage yards in other areas of the country require that petcoke be covered, and that is the push here.

''We definitely believe that covering the sites is something that has to be weighted heavily because of the neighborhoods that we're with," said Lisa Bonnett, Illinois EPA director.

KCBX in a statement says it is "...committed to doing the right thing."

But it stops short of discussing covering or enclosing its yards saying that its new $10-million water cannon system works.

Neighbors say, let's see what happens with the warm winds of summer.

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