Illinois Attorney General settles with KCBX over water issues

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Sept. 15 announced a settlement with KCBX Terminals Co. for alleged water pollution and open dumping violations at its north terminal in Chicago.

Under the terms of the settlement, as of June 15, KCBX has ceased all operations at its north terminal and removed all petroleum coke (petcoke) and coal piles. The company is also required to submit a plan to close an on-site retention pond and to implement other closure activities required by its NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) water permit. Also, the company will pay a civil penalty of $35,000.

“KCBX’s petcoke facilities are a serious concern for nearby residents,” said Madigan. “The closing and cleaning of the north terminal is an important step to protect the health and environment for residents on Chicago’s southeast side.”

Madigan’s lawsuit alleged that KCBX insufficiently maintained a narrow concrete walkway as a barrier to separate mounds of petcoke and coal from the Calumet River. The lawsuit said that when inspectors from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) visited the facility in November 2013, they discovered that the walkway was not tall enough to prevent storm water runoff into the river and contained substantial cracks and fissures.

The company was using sandbags at that point to create a higher barrier. But the inspectors noted several sections of the makeshift barrier had been removed, allowing for contaminated runoff into the river.

“Today’s action is another step in our ongoing work with community leaders to protect the public health of some of our most vulnerable residents,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Earlier this year my administration worked with local residents to shut down one facility and pass stringent new rules that require significant upgrades to the remaining facility. I applaud the work of Attorney General Madigan to further protect these communities by holding petcoke operators accountable for their actions.”

Petcoke is a solid, carbon material that is a byproduct of the oil refining process. It is often fired in power plants, either by itself or in combination with coal.

The settlement resolves the second lawsuit Madigan filed against KCBX after previously suing the company in November 2013 alleging air pollution violations at its south terminal located on South Burley Avenue. Nearby residents had reported that mounting piles of petcoke and coal were sending clouds of black dust into the neighborhood. That case is still pending in Cook County Circuit Court.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.