CITY HALL — Two prominent aldermen intend to snuff out the petroleum-refining byproduct known as "petcoke" before it becomes a citywide problem.
Aldermen Edward Burke (14th) and John Pope (10th) submitted an ordinance Wednesday to impose a strict ban on the storage of petroleum coke within the city limits.
According to the aldermen, the measure comes after Southeast Side residents protested about cars and yards being "plastered" with black dust from storage piles near the Calumet River as petcoke is transported from the BP refinery in Whiting, Ind.
It also comes after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed suit against the KCBX Terminals Co. at 10730 S. Burley Ave., stating, "Inhaling petcoke can contribute to respiratory health problems, particularly for individuals who suffer from heart and lung disease and asthma."
"We do not want our neighborhoods covered with this black dust," Pope said. "And the residents of the Southeast Side certainly do not want to be threatened by the health concerns that come along with this pollution."
Burke added that it was not about protecting one community, but the entire city. "It troubles the quality of life of all of us, doesn't it?" Burke asked.
Burke said he believes regulation of the refinery residue had fallen between the cracks in federal and state government, a position that echoed what Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday when he bemoaned how there is "nothing on the books" to regulate petcoke.
Emanuel, however, called it "a public health hazard as well as an environmental degradation," promising, "So we're going to get something on the books."
Mayoral spokesman Bill McCaffrey said the administration is drafting regulations on petcoke in addition to the ordinance, which they are in the process of reviewing.
The proposed ordinance was sent to the Finance Committee, where Burke is the chairman.