By Bernie Tafoya

CHICAGO (CBS) — Southeast Side activists say the air seems to be a bit cleaner these days, but they still want to see out of their communities, companies that deal with the gritty petroleum byproduct known as petcoke.

Southeast Siders recently agreed to a class action settlement in two lawsuits against several companies and Olga Bautista, mother of two and member of the Southeast Chicago Coalition to Ban Petcoke says, “For us, it’s a victory. It is a victory. It’s not enough. It doesn’t go far enough to protect the community.”

The settlement is $1.45 million. Residents who file claims by September 24 will split what remains after lawyers are paid. Residents can find claim forms at petcokechicagosettlement.com.

10th Ward Alderman Sue Sadlowski Garza says, “What I’d like to see is KCBX Terminals gone completely.”

KCBX Terminals is among the companies who have agreed to pay in the class action suits. The others include, Koch Carbon LLC, DTE Chicago Fuels Terminal LLC, Calumet Transload Railroad LLC, George J. Beemsterboer, Inc. and Beemsterboer Slag and Ballast Corporation.

KCBX says in a statement to Newsradio it is committed to earning its neighbors’ trust, and that by June, any petcoke the company handles will be on a covered conveyor system.

KCBX says it has invested $30 million to improve operations, including a $10 million dust suppression system.

The company says more than two years of air monitoring data show “that air quality near the KCBX terminal meets federal clean air standards.”

The companies make no admission in the settlements that petcoke may have caused health problems or otherwise contaminated people’s properties.

Still, 10th Ward Alderman Sue Sadlowski Garza, one of those named on one of the two class action lawsuits says, “We don’t even know what this is going to do to us, right? So, I’d just like to see them gone altogether.”

She says, “There’s still trains coming through our neighborhoods that go through Hegewisch carrying petcoke. We don’t need that here.”

The alderman says, “I think we’ve had enough of pollutants in our air and water here, so, the 10th Ward deserves better.”
Meanwhile, Bautista says a meeting will be planned soon to provide more information to residents about filing a claim to get a portion of the settlement.

Of the nearly $1.5 million settlement, Bautista says, “I feel like that doesn’t even make a dent in their operations. The kind of contamination that they have caused to the community is just crazy.”

Full KCBX statement:

“We are pleased to resolve this matter. We have the utmost respect for our neighbors and we are committed to earning their trust and confidence in our operations.

KCBX has operated bulk material terminals in Chicago for more than 25 years. In 2012, we acquired our Burley Avenue terminal and invested $30 million to improve operations, which included a $10 million dust suppression system, which has proven effective.

More than two years of air monitoring data show that air quality near the KCBX terminal meets federal clean air standards. Independent laboratories also have conducted tests on more than 100 soil and surface samples from the neighborhoods near the terminal and found no evidence of coal or petcoke dust. In addition, the EPA determined that blackened home air furnace filters from the neighborhood do not contain coal or petcoke. Finally, the EPA’s own ambient air monitor located a couple blocks from our Burley Avenue terminal at Washington High School never exceeded national air standards for dust that could be associated with coal or petcoke.

In the past a portion of the product was transferred to ground then to vessels and barges, and a portion was transferred directly. By June of this year, all piles of coal and petroleum coke will be eliminated, as the city’s rules require, and the Burley Avenue terminal will transition to a direct transfer facility where all product will transfer directly to barges and vessels via a covered conveyor system. KCBX’s other Chicago terminal has been closed.”

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