Tag Archives: lake michigan

Illinois Says to Indiana: Keep Your Petcoke and Take Ours Too

22 Dec

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 loaded onto barge in chicago

Petcoke is loaded onto a barge for shipment overseas

petcoke mountain in chicago

Petcoke Mountain on Chicago’s southeast side.

 

 

 

Reader Outlines Concerns Over Illiana

17 Dec

Letter to the Gazette:

On December 12, 2013, the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission
(NIRPC) voted to accept the Illiana Toll Road into their 2040 Comprehensive
Regional Plan. By voting the Illiana public/private partnership project into
the regional plan, the NIRPC commissioners are allowing the project to clear
one of the many hurdles in its path. Public comment was not allowed at this
final meeting until after the NIRPC commission members had already voted.
NIRPC Chairman and Crown Point Mayor David Uran stated that three meetings
had been held where public comment was allowed and commission members had
reviewed comments submitted by the public. I have my doubts about how many
of the commission members truly read through the valid arguments against
adding this toll road to the commission’s 2040 plan.
> Besides the environmental impact on the region, which has three major
environmental groups filing lawsuits to stop the Illiana Toll Road, two major
business magazines have had eye-opening columns that explain in great detail
the extreme cost to taxpayers when dealing with privately run toll roads.
Openlands, Sierra Club, and Midewin Heritage Association have taken legal
action to stop the toll road based on the inevitable consequences in areas
such as Des Plaines Conservation Area and Midewin Tallgrass Prarie in
Illinois. Bloomberg News and Crain’s Chicago Business both recently printed
columns exposing the fact that overly-optimistic projections take place in
almost all of these road projects. This has led private road companies to
seek “set” payments from the states instead of accepting any risk that tolls
may not match projections. This is a lose/lose situation for the taxpayer.
You pay the toll and pay the state taxes that also pay the difference of
these exaggerated estimates. This is corporate welfare on steroids!
> Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider let the cat out of the bag in
October of this year when interviewed by Crain’s reporter Greg Hinz. When
people throw around the 28,000 jobs between now and 2043, they are quoting
“job-years”(whatever the heck that means), not total new jobs. The actual
estimate is a possible “940 full-time jobs” created. Forty-seven miles of
road cutting through the most pristine farmland and homesteads, which rely
completely on wells for water, so two governors can create 940 jobs over the
next 30 years. It would be funny if it wasn’t so damn stupid and serious.
> Schneider also completely contradicted Indiana Rep. Ed Soliday’s claim at the
NIRPC meeting that a future Peotone Airport is playing no role in pushing
this project. According to Schneider, traffic projections for Illiana done
by IDOT assumed the Peotone Airport will eventually be built. I would have
told Ed that, but public comment was not allowed.
> At the meeting on the 12th of December, which was conveniently held on a
Thursday at 9:00AM in Portage, Indiana, INDOT Northwest Indiana Chief Bob
Alderman gave an impassioned, nearly 15-minute, speech about how the Illiana
Toll Road will make the Borman and I-65 safer for travel. Really, Mr.
Alderman? You truly believe widening I-65 between U.S. 231 and Route 30 will
make things safe when the toll road will be well south of U.S. 231? You
believe diverting traffic from U.S. 30 and the Borman between 2-percent and
8-percent over the next 30 years is going to make the Borman safe?
> I drove from Hammond to the Portage NIRPC meeting on the Borman in light
traffic and still had to drive ultra-defensively because people were driving
25-miles over the speed limit. How will building a toll road make people on
the Borman drive in a safe manner? Why not widen I-65 up to and south of the
toll road? Unlike what some are reporting in the news, the “widening” of
I-65 is NOT part of the Illiana Toll Road project. It is only being approved
at the same time.
> There is so much misinformation being thrown around in support of this toll
road that it is very hard to decipher truth from fiction at this time. But
what is for certain is that we have the governor of one of the most fiscally
sound state governments in the United States making a deal with one of the
most mismanaged states in the Union. Two major business magazines have
labeled this road a bad investment for Hoosiers. Our water will be
threatened by construction, possible hazardous waste trucking spills, and
distance from Lake Michigan and access to fresh water.
> The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) transportation research group’s
(TRIP) most recent study says that 11% of Indiana bridges are structurally
deficient and 22.5% of our roads are in poor condition. Between Illinois and
Indiana, well more than 100-million dollars has been spent just studying the
feasibility of the Illiana Toll Road. That money could have been better
spent fixing our current roads and bridges instead of creating temporary jobs
to build a road 22-miles south of the Borman.
> If I weren’t 100-percent convinced that the Illiana Toll Road will fail to
provide the estimated tolls or meaningful, permanent jobs, I wouldn’t be so
determined to stop this project. If I were convinced that building this road
would make the Borman, Route 30, or any other road around here safer, I would
be in favor of it. I don’t believe any of that. But don’t listen to me.
Look up the information for yourself. Study the facts about our watershed,
private toll roads, look up comments from Illinois Transportation Secretary
Ann Schneider and others who are not so adamant supporters of this project.
Is the purpose of a toll road to create permanent jobs?
>
Dan Blankenship, Lowell

Submit your letter, comments or thoughts to the Gazette:

Researchers to study Lake Michigan currents with scientific vessel

20 Jul

 

 
Lake Michigan research vessel

Purdue researchers are spending a week near the middle of Lake Michigan, about 50 miles southeast of Milwaukee, aboard the Blue Heron research vessel, seen here. They will be tracking a fluorescent plume of dyed water to study how currents transport contaminants and aquatic life. (University of Minnesota-Duluth, Large Lakes Observatory photo/Brett Groehler) 
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Researchers from Purdue University are spending a week aboard a scientific vessel in Lake Michigan, tracking a fluorescent plume of dyed water to study how currents transport contaminants and aquatic life.

The five-member team, which includes four students, will conduct research aboard the Blue Heron for seven days beginning Sunday (July 14). The experiment is being conducted in the middle of the lake, about 50 miles southeast of Milwaukee.

“The goal is to do a dye-release experiment and to track the dye patch over time to see where it diffuses and where it moves and to relate that to the information we have about the lake currents and waves,” said Cary Troy, an assistant professor in Purdue’s School of Civil Engineering. “One obvious application is for something like an oil spill or any sort of contaminant spill in the Great Lakes. If you have a spill, you need to predict where it’s going to go and how quickly it’s going to dissipate.”

Findings also could help to better understand movement of organisms such as plankton and fish larvae.

“Data will be used to improve computer models of how these things are circulated and transported in the Great Lakes,” said Troy, who is working with doctoral student Jun Choi, undergraduate David Cannon and two other students.

The research vessel is operated with funding from the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System, a group of academic institutions and national laboratories involved in oceanographic research. The vessel is part of a fleet associated with the National Science Foundation’s Division of Ocean Sciences, and the research is funded by NSF’s Physical Oceanography Program.

Research findings could apply to any of the Great Lakes and other large bodies of water, including oceans

The non-toxic dye, called Rhodamine WT, is initially bright pink and later is not detectable by the naked eye. The researchers will track it using equipment called a fluorometer, which detects dye fluorescence. The fluorometer is mounted to an instrument package that is towed behind the ship and controlled so that it undulates up and down, a technique called Tow-Yo. The up-and-down movement enables researchers to create a two-dimensional scan of the dye patch.

“Then, we will go back and forth in sort of a grid pattern while we are Tow-Yoing, providing a three-dimensional view of the dye patch,” Troy said.

The research is needed in part because, unlike oceans, the Great Lakes lack the predictable regularity of tides. Instead, Lake Michigan currents are determined by a combination of factors including winds and water temperatures that vary according to depth. These factors combine to cause a complex, spiraling water flow, producing a type of wave called an inertial wave.

“You can get currents as strong as a half-meter per second in the middle of Lake Michigan,” Troy said. “The effect is strongest in the middle of each of the Great Lakes, so that’s why we are doing the research there. We don’t have tides in Lake Michigan, but we do have inertial waves, and these waves can often cause tidal-like behavior in the lake’s interior in terms of their strength and regularity.”

The researchers hypothesize that the waves govern dispersion of particles in the interior of the Great Lakes.

In addition to the fluorometer, researchers will use devices called drifters to track the dye. The buoy-like drifters flow with currents using underwater sails. They are equipped with GPS systems and beam their location to a satellite every hour. The real-time positions provided by the drifters will help guide the researchers as they attempt to follow the drifting dye patch over the seven-day cruise. The NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich. is providing real-time forecasts of the dye-patch location.