After Petcoke, Community Confronts More Dangerous Pollutant: Manganese

February 9, 2017 - storage organizer

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

Editor’s note: This story was updated Feb. 9 after vocalization with a deputy of S.H. Bell.

They suspicion it was over when a black dirt went away.

For decades, residents on Chicago’s Far Southeast Side complained about thick clouds of black dirt floating opposite their neighborhoods, by their windows and even into their mouths.

The dirt came from unclosed piles of spark and petroleum coke, or petcoke, a plain byproduct of a oil enlightening routine that is stored during sites in this heavily industrial mezzanine along a Calumet River, only south of a Chicago Skyway bridge.


More: This story is a initial in a array examining a latest effects of environmental wickedness on Chicago’s Far Southeast Side.


Ever present, a black dirt coated a bottoms of a feet of children personification outward and sprinkled itself on potato salads during area picnics.

But about 4 years ago, residents in a East Side and South Deering neighborhoods started to complain, a lot. And they organized.

Led by groups like a Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke and Southeast Environmental Task Force, village members complained adequate about a black dirt to set off a sequence of events that enclosed investigations by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Illinois EPA, a lawsuit by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and new city regulations requiring bulk storage comforts to minimize dirt emissions.

Today, a black dirt is, for a many part, gone.

“We’ve only been used to carrying this dirt here for so long,” pronounced Annamarie Garza, a longtime East Side proprietor with 4 children. “I suspicion we were done.”

About 3 weeks ago, Garza and 25 other relatives from Matthew Gallistel Language Academy showed adult for a PTA assembly during a school. Waiting for them was Olga Bautista, an organizer with SETF.

Bautista had bad news: Air wickedness monitors commissioned during one of a circuitously bulk storage sites during a petcoke conflict had rescued potentially dangerous levels of manganese, a steel used to furnish steel and found in other minerals in multiple with iron. The information were collected by a EPA in 2014-15 from monitors set adult during KCBX Terminals.

Olga Bautista of a Southeast Environmental Task Force. (Terry Evans / Courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Photography)

Although manganese is a nutritious essential for neurological function, during high concentrations, it can means neurological deficits and impact engine functions, according to a EPA. The organisation says bearing to towering concentrations of manganese in a atmosphere can lead to a permanent neurological commotion famous as manganism, a symptoms of that embody tremors, problem walking, facial flesh spasms and mood changes.

The risk is even larger for children, unborn babies and nursing infants. Exposure to high concentrations of manganese can impact mind development, including changes in function and decreases in training and memory capacities, according to a EPA.

“When we found out about manganese, we called them right away,” pronounced Bautista, who is friends with mothers of Gallistel students. “They were upset. They were unequivocally upset.”

<!–Much stays unknown. It is unclear, for example, how many manganese is in a atmosphere since a association obliged for emitting a chemical, S.H. Bell Co., has for scarcely 3 years refused to implement atmosphere wickedness monitors as compulsory following a notice of defilement from a EPA underneath a Clean Air Act, according to a complaint filed by a EPA opposite a association in August.–>

Much stays unknown. It is unclear, for example, how many manganese is in a air. One trickery in tighten vicinity to a monitors that rescued a manganese, S.H. Bell Co., has for scarcely 3 years avoided installing monitors.

According to a complaint filed by a EPA opposite a association in August, “S.H. Bell has refused to implement atmosphere wickedness monitors during a bulk element doing trickery in southeast Chicago, Illinois.”

The monitors are compulsory by a notice of defilement from a EPA underneath a Clean Air Act.

In December, a EPA and Department of Justice announced a allotment with S.H. Bell mandating that a association implement atmosphere monitors, in further to profitable a $100,000 polite penalty.

In response to questions from Chicago Tonight, S.H. Bell pronounced in a matter antiquated Jan. 30: “The allotment calls for a monitors to be commissioned no after than Mar 1, 2017, and S.H. Bell is committed to assembly that deadline.”

However, on Feb. 1, Chicago’s Department of Public Health told a association that it had denied a ask for an extension. The EPA, that set a Mar 1 deadline, settled in a allotment with S.H. Bell that it would defer to a city on a matter. In a minute sent to S.H. Bell, CDPH pronounced a association contingency implement and activate a monitors within dual weeks from a date of a letter, that puts a new deadline during Feb. 15. 

The minute states if a association fails to comply, it will be theme to coercion action, “including daily fines in a volume of $1,000 to $5,000 per violation.”

Garza pronounced many residents and relatives do not nonetheless know about a manganese exposure, an emanate that came to light final summer in a news published by a sovereign Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

That’s changing, though. On Tuesday night, a Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke hold a assembly to warning village members about a manganese.

According to SETF, about 20,000 residents live within 1 mile of S.H. Bell, that a ATSDR identified as a expected source of manganese in a news expelled final summer.

“People are only starting to get informed,” Garza said.

About 20,000 residents live within one mile of S.H. Bell’s Chicago facility, according to a Southeast Environmental Task Force.

Unlike with petcoke, that left black stains on roofs and coated a outward of cars, manganese dirt is some-more formidable to detect. Some residents have reported a yellow cloaking on their houses that matches a fingerprint of manganese, pronounced Meleah Geertsma, an profession with a Natural Resources Defense Council.

“[But] we don’t know that there’s anything super specifying about it,” pronounced Geertsma, one of 3 attorneys who co-authored a letter propelling Chicago’s Department of Public Health to need that S.H. Bell stop doing manganese during a facility.

The letter, sent to a city Jan. 11, was also sealed by profession Keith Harley on interest of Bautista’s group, a Southeast Environmental Task Force.

“I don’t consider a village has satisfied to date what they’re sitting on,” Bautista said.

Follow Alex Ruppenthal on Twitter: @arupp

In Part 2 of a series, an environmenthal health highbrow shares formula from a initial investigate in a U.S. to inspect a effects of manganese bearing in children – and how a chemical competence impact children on Chicago’s Southeast Side. 

Video: Reporter Alex Ruppenthal discusses a story with Phil Ponce.


Related stories:

Photography Exhibition Looks during Effects of Petroleum Coke in Chicago

July 26: For years, petroleum coke – a black, powdery byproduct of connect sands oil refineries – tormented Southeast Side neighborhoods along a Calumet River.


KCBX Denies Petcoke Dust Problem Despite Air Quality Violations

Nov. 25, 2014: The association that stores many of a petcoke on a city’s southeast side is perplexing to get a city to relax a regulations.


Chicago Petcoke Ordinance Passes

April 30, 2014: The Chicago City Council upheld an bidding controlling petcoke today. Petcoke is a spark like substance, a byproduct of enlightening oil.


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