CHICAGO, IL— Five community members and concerned citizens have been arrested following a blockade of the only two entrances to the Koch Carbon Transfer Terminal (KCBX) on Chicago’s Southeast side Monday morning. Operations at the facility were shut down for over four hours this morning in an attempt to stop the continued toxic petcoke particulate handling in their neighborhood, the dirty greenhouse gasses released in the process, and the adverse health impacts stemming from both. Blockaders were also joined by 10th ward Chicago alderwoman Susan Garza who sat in support of the blockaders.
Petcoke is a fine dust that is a byproduct of refining oil. Sixty foot tall piles of the substance began appearing on Chicago’s SE side near the Calumet River two years ago. Community action won the closure of two storage sites, but one transfer site remains open, menacing the health and wellbeing of residents.
“In the two years our community has been fighting the open storage of petcoke, I have had a baby. I live in constant fear of my seven month old son have respiratory problems. I am disgusted by corporations putting their profits over the health of our community. I feel like we have gone through all of the formal complaint processes and it is time to take direct action. I don’t know what else to do to protect the health of my baby,” said Kate Koval, a local mother and longtime community resident, who is sitting in the blockade.
A recent study from Johns Hopkins has linked cardiovascular hospitalizations to same day exposure to particulates in the air that are between 2.5 to 10 microns, implicating exposure to petcoke in the cause of heart disease.
Not only is petcoke bad for human health, but it’s dangerous for global climate. Petcoke is shipped to countries like China and India and burned in power plants producing 5-10% more greenhouse gases than burning coal.
Reverend Jim Galuhn, Pastor of nearby East Side United Methodist Church, spoke from the blockade: “This action is a witness for environmental justice on behalf of the people who live here, who breath the air polluted by petcoke. We think of our children, especially our neighborhood schools that asthma vans that must regularly come to treat. This action is for them. It is a non-violent witness to seek support from our politicians and those interested in the growth and development of this part of the city.”
Instead of dirty industry like petcoke transfer sites, community residents call for green jobs that put people to work and don’t harm health and climate.