Sunday, March 8, 2015
PRESS RELEASE - STORY FROM YESTERDAY'S PRESS CONFERENCE March 6, 2015 For further information, contact Peggy Salazar or Tom Shepherd, Southeast Environmental Task Force - (773) 370-3305 ------------------------- With a backdrop of the frozen Calumet River, towering salt piles, and the ominous, black petcoke hills at the KCBX North Terminal, the Southeast Environmental Task Force, the Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke, National Nurses United, along with neighborhood residents and several students held a joint press conference to call attention to the overwhelming community support for a ban on pet coke in the 10th ward, and to clear up some of the confusion caused by the flurry of recent news articles regarding KCBX's operations. The news that KCBX will be removing the pet coke piles from it's original northern site is not a new development but rather an update. The plan all along was to move and consolidate their northern operations to the southern site, but due to a number of delays, it has taken this long to accomplish. The company has said that they will have removed all petcoke and coal from the north site by June of this year. Secondly, KCBX's announcement that it will no longer store pet coke in open piles on the ground but instead do direct transfer from rail to water brings a whole new set of concerns. Rail cars full of pet coke will remain uncovered, and if parked for any length of time could release particulate matter into the air and the community. Another concern was if the new technique might increase vehicle and vessel traffic, thereby causing more dust-ups. "KCBX's recent announcement of it's plans to discontinue the storage of pet coke and instead use direct transfer from rail to water did not allay residents' concerns," stated Peggy Salazar, director at the Southeast Environmental Task Force. In the February 24th city elections, a non-binding referendum question was on the ballot in the 10th Ward asking: "Shall the storing, handling, and transporting of petroleum coke be banned in the 10th Ward?" This measure passed resoundingly by an 86% to 14% margin. "The people have spoken, and we stand with the neighbors on this are who have suffered with the petcoke long enough. They have said they want the stuff out!" said Tom Shepherd, one of the organizers with the Southeast Environmental Task Force. Olga Bautista, a local resident and organizer with the S.E. Coalition to Ban Petcoke spoke of the harm that having this dirty business so close to homes, parks, and schools is having. Also speaking was Ramona Cetnar of the National Nurses United, who lives within a few blocks of the facility. The nurses have joined with the others who are concerned with the health affects of the dust that blows off the piles and is sent into the air whenever it is being loaded, unloaded, or moved about. The groups plan a community meeting on March 19 at East Side Methodist Church to update the community, and to continue to pressure public officials to take stronger action regarding the petcoke issue.