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Water pollution suit filed over petcoke storage on Southeast Side

KCBX Terminals Co. storages sites for coal petroleum coke or 'petcoke' along Calumet River Chicago's 10th Ward where residents filed

KCBX Terminals Co. storages sites for coal and petroleum coke, or "petcoke" along the Calumet River in Chicago's 10th Ward where residents filed a class action lawsuit against the company storing the uncovered hazardous material. | Sun-Times files

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The Illinois Attorney General’s office filed another lawsuit against KCBX Terminals on Tuesday, alleging runoff from a Southeast Side petcoke facility contaminated the Calumet River.

This is the second lawsuit Lisa Madigan’s office has filed against the company over its storage of petcoke, a byproduct of the oil refinery process.

Tuesday’s lawsuit claims a narrow concrete walkway separating mounds of petcoke and coal from the river at the company’s 100th Street facility was not tall enough to keep storm runoff from entering the river, Madigan’s office said in a news release.

“My office is continuing to work on several fronts, both in the courtroom and in the legislature, to force these companies to clean up their act in the interest of the surrounding community’s health and safety,” Madigan said in the release.

An Illinois Environmental Protection Agency inspection of the walkway in November 2013 also found numerous cracks and fissures in it, the release said.

The company had used sandbags as a makeshift barrier, but several sections had been removed as of the inspection, the lawsuit claims. The suit accuses KCBX Terminals of water pollution and illegal dumping, the release said.

“We are disappointed by the state’s decision to file a lawsuit on a matter that we believe can be resolved outside of court,” KCBX spokesman Jake Reint said in a statement.

“KCBX has made every effort to work with the Attorney General’s office to reach a solution that avoids unnecessary litigation,” Reint said. “As has been the case throughout our 20 years of operations in Illinois, KCBX is committed to complying with all rules and regulations and working cooperatively with regulators whenever possible to resolve our differences. A lawsuit in this case is entirely unnecessary and an avoidable cost to Illinois taxpayers.”

Madigan’s office previously filed suit against the company last November, alleging air pollution violations at its other facility on South Burley Avenue, the release said.

People who live nearby had complained about the piles sending clouds of black dust into their neighborhood. Inhaling petcoke can contribute to respiratory problems, especially for people with heart or lung disease, or asthma, Madigan’s office said.

The attorney general’s office also joined the City of Chicago in a separate lawsuit in December 2013 against BeemsterBoer Slag Corp., seeking the removal of its petcoke and coal piles along the Calumet River near 106th Street.

All of the suits are pending in Cook County Circuit Court.

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