Petcoke storage facility requests more time to meet city's regulations

Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Petcoke facility requests more time to comply with city regulations
KCBX Terminals officials are asking the city for more time to comply with the city's plan for protecting the community from petcoke pollution.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A company that stores a by-product of oil refining, called petroleum coke or petcoke, claims it wants to be a good neighbor to residents who live near their facility. But KCBX Terminals officials are asking the city for more time to comply with the city's plan for protecting the community from pet coke pollution.

At the KCBX terminal, 60 acres of mostly petcoke is delivered, stored and shipped from here. The company believes it's a good neighbor with a $10 million water cannon system for dust suppression, newly-covered conveyors, and air quality monitors on the site perimeter.

"Our last 200 days, we have 200 or so days where the results are very positive. They show no dust going into the community," said Mike Estadt, KCBX operations manager.

KCBX even points to a pair of furnace filters from nearby homes, tested this summer by the EPA. While they look nasty, they don't contain petcoke dust.

"It's in the air we breathe and that's what's important to us," said Peggy Salazar, Southeast Environmental Task Force.

Neighbors contend the water cannons aren't effective. They don't cover petcoke loading or unloading, and that soot on house siding is not imaginary. New city health regulations require that if KCBX wants to stay here, it most fully enclose the petcoke - in a building, or buildings - with four walls and a roof. The company says it will do that, but argues that with permitting, doing it within two years as the city wants is not practical.

"It's also gonna take some time to design the building and right size it so the investment we're making is appropriate, and that it meets customers' needs and then also the city's regulations," said Jake Reint, KCBX.

"So KCBX is just dragging its feet and it's very important the city hold them to these regulations because they're gonna set the tone for the rest of the industries along the river," said Salazar.

KCBX is asking the city for variances from its new rules. A public comment period on that issue has now ended, and the ball is in the court of the city's public health director.

"We're gonna work with the city, continue to work with the city. I can't speculate on what might happen if these variances are not granted. We think they're reasonable and hopefully the city will agree," said Reint.

Ald. John Pope says he wants the city to take a hard line stance on the variance requests. The city hasn't made clear when a decision will be coming. If it is not to KCBX's liking, they could opt to take the issue to court, though that is a possibility they are not now discussing.

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