by Ken Davidson
Hammond corporation George J. Beemsterboer, Inc. is known to many Indiana residents as the operator of the J-Pit in Gary and a contractor at local steel mills and refineries. As operator of the J-Pit, Beemsterboer has long been known for bringing waste into the state of Indiana. Now Beemsterboer is under fire for allegedly moving Petcoke out of Indiana and into Illinois.
Beemsterboer recently entered into an Agreed Interim Order with the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago. According to a release issued by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the Order was designed to thwart a serious public health issue:
“The actions we are taking today mark a critical step forward in putting a stop to the
serious public health threat facing the residents that live near these facilities, but we will
continue to push for the strongest possible protections to ensure these conditions can
never happen again here in Chicago and across the state,”
Earlier in the month, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel requested that citizens experiencing any problems with petcoke call the City’s 311 number. Citizens reportedly complained of dust so thick they could not open their windows last summer.
The petcoke which was stored in Illinois by Beemsterboer came from a local refinery. There are several refineries in the area which produce petcoke including BP in Whiting. There are also refineries in Joliet and Lemont IL. The most likely scenario now will be that petcoke from all of these refineries will be stored and shipped somewhere in Indiana or Wisconsin.
Petcoke is a byproduct of petroleum production. The material is similar to coal in appearance. The substance has been a byproduct of refining since the 1930’s. It has become a national issue lately for several reasons. The sheer quantity of petcoke has grown as local refineries have expanded. The market for petcoke now lies outside the US, so it is primarily shipped overseas. China is the main purchaser of petcoke products as many countries no longer allow the burning of petcoke as fuel. Because shipping is the primary source of transporting the product, petcoke must be stored near water-in this case Lake Michigan or a local tributary. Conveniently, Beemsterboer announced the purchase of the vacant State Line Energy plant after the Illinois Attorney General filed suit against them seeking to have the product removed from Illinois. It has been reported that Beemsterboer will develop the State Line Energy site into condominiums.
One thing is clear, Beemsterboer is not storing petcoke in Chicago anymore. So far officials have been mum as to future plans for storage of the material.
Petcoke is loaded onto a barge for shipment overseas
Petcoke Mountain on Chicago’s southeast side.