The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Polluting Working-Class Chicago

Oct 28, 2013

Oil giant BP is covering a Chicago neighborhood with toxic dust.

BP has begun processing oil from Canada’s tar sands at a refinery in Whiting, Indiana near Chicago. This produces enormous amounts of black dust called petroleum coke: 2.2 million tons a year when the refinery is finished.

BP has already gotten so much heat for pollution from the Whiting refinery that if this coke was stored there, the EPA would make BP cover it, to prevent it from blowing into the air. So BP ships the coke a few miles away and piles it up on the Southeast Side of Chicago, where the EPA turns a blind eye.

There, a company owned by the super-rich Koch Brothers called KCBX Terminals stores the piles without even covering them with tarps. As a result, nasty black clouds of dust blow off the piles and cover the surrounding working-class neighborhood.

This dust is full of sulfur, carbon, and heavy metals. It is so thick that people who live in the area report they have to keep their children inside, keep their windows closed, and power-wash their houses every week. A monitor at Washington High School near the piles reports the state’s highest levels of toxic chromium and cadmium, as well as sulfates, which cause asthma attacks and increase the risk of heart disease.

Just a few blocks away, the city is trying to develop the former site of U.S. Steel’s South Works into an area for middle class housing and business. The city claims this area will be a showcase for “green,” energy-efficient construction. Meanwhile, they’re allowing BP and the Koch Brothers to create an environmental disaster, driving the poor people and workers who live in the area out.

Toxic clouds for workers and “green” housing for the wealthy sums up the policy of these corporations, the city government, and the EPA. Just imagine how fast they all would move if these toxic piles were on the wealthy Gold Coast!