Good Neighbor Campaigns / Right-to-Know

After petcoke, community confronts more dangerous pollutant: manganese

S.H. Bell’s bulk storage facility along the Calumet River on Chicago’s Far Southeast Side. (Alex Ruppenthal / Chicago Tonight)

CHICAGO, IL — “They thought it was over when the black dust went away.

For decades, residents on Chicago’s Far Southeast Side complained about thick clouds of black dust blowing across their neighborhoods, through their windows and even into their mouths.

The dust came from uncovered piles of coal and petroleum coke, or petcoke, a solid byproduct of the oil refining process that is stored at sites in this heavily industrial corridor along the Calumet River, just south of the Chicago Skyway bridge.

Ever present, the black dust coated the bottoms of the feet of children playing outside and sprinkled itself on potato salads at neighborhood picnics.

But about four years ago, residents in the East Side and South Deering neighborhoods started to complain, a lot. And they organized.”

— Alex Ruppenthal, Chicago Tonight

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