Watch CBS News

Plans To Close Petcoke Facilities Welcome News To South Deering Neighbors

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Bowing to pressure from the Emanuel administration, community activists and environmental groups, one of the two remaining storage facilities for petroleum coke shut down Tuesday -- and the last is on borrowed time.

In the neighboring South Deering neighborhood, it couldn't happen soon enough.

Benjamin Franklin Hill runs his index finger along the sooty screen door to his home at 13156 S. Commercial Av. and points to the stained siding beneath the living room window. It's less than five years old.

"I assure you I've cleaned it," Hill said. "If you look at the siding I've washed it down."

Hill can't point to the cough that began months after he moved in, or the spot on his lungs that doctors recently found. He said closure of the KCBX North petcoke storage facility is good, but said he is not going to wait out the year till the KCBX South facility is forced to close.

"I'm moving out of here as early as before the week is over," he said. "I've been in the process of moving anyway. Here's hoping they correct the problem."

At first, when he moved in, Hill said he did not understand why street sweepers worked in front of his home constantly, or the mounds of petcoke were watered down all the time. Now, he said, running his finger across the door again, it seems only too obvious.

The situation is little better for a woman who identified herself only as Esther.

She said she has developed a cough since moving to South Deering. So have her husband and daughter. She said her daughter died two years ago.

"No matter what you do, you're going to get that dust inside," she said. "My home has never been this dusty. It's just too much dust, and I'm constantly cleaning."


She's pleased that the last of the facilities has been given a year to shut down.

"I thought this was a nice place and then, all the dust and everything breathing in -- I just don't think it's a good thing," she said.

Esther talks about getting checked but wonders if it's already too late.

KCBX, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, claims its efforts have cleaned up the area surrounding its petcoke storage facilities; those who worked toward its closing say the efforts have proven to be less than effective.

An ordinance approved by the city last year requires existing petcoke storage facilities to be covered up, and bars any new facilities from opening. Petcoke is used in place of, and resembles, coal. Most of the petcoke stored at the KCBX facility is destined for export.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.