Several oil refinery units of Koch Industries Inc. are facing a class action lawsuit alleging residents have incurred property damage as a result of dust from uncovered byproduct piles blowing into their homes.
Dust from the Koch terminals continues to blow into nearby residential areas.
The class action claims companies including KCBX Terminals Co., KM Railways LLC, and Koch Carbon operate storage and transfer terminals along the Calumet River where they keep uncovered piles of coal and the refinery byproduct petroleum coke, also known as petcoke. Although similar companies have fully or partially covered their petcoke piles to prevent the dust from blowing into nearby Chicago neighborhoods, the Koch refineries have only sprayed down their piles, according to the complaint.
Plaintiffs allege that without the petcoke piles being properly covered, dust from the Koch terminals continues to blow into nearby residential areas, entering homes and leaving items including furniture, carpeting, and clothing subject to damage. The plaintiffs allege that they have been forced to spend time and money cleaning, repairing, and replacing items in their homes, and are also concerned that the dust buildup presents a fire hazard. In addition, residents may develop respiratory problems if exposed to too much petcoke and are forced to remain indoors, the plaintiffs said.
The lawsuit also brings some other companies under scrutiny, including DTE Chicago Fuels Terminal LLC, which sold its terminal to KM Railways last December, and George J. Beemsterboer Inc., which has previously been accused of violating state environmental laws related to the dust. In recent years, the petcoke dust problem has gotten worse for residents since BP PLC opened a refinery in Whiting Ind., according to the complaint. BP is currently undergoing a $3.8 billion upgrade to allow its refinery in Whiting to process heavier oils from the tar sands in Canada, which would triple the amount of petcoke produced annually.
In a nearly identical suit filed just days after the class action, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madgian is suing Koch over air pollution violations and state environmental regulations also related to the petcoke dust. The lawsuit seeks immediate corrective action for the petcoke piles, as well as a $50,000 civil penalty for each violation of environmental laws and a $10,000 penalty per day of each violation.