U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is worried that a new pollution problem in Chicago is also an issue in other parts of the state. The concern is over a byproduct of the oil refining process called petroleum coke, or petcoke. The substance is sometimes stored in outdoor piles, and residents near three such sites in Chicago have complained that petcoke dust is blowing into the neighborhoods and causing health problems. Durbin says more petcoke is being created because of pipelines bringing Canadian tar sands into the United States.
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“We have, across the state, more and more refineries that are refining these Canadian tar sands,” Durbin said. “In the Roxana, Wood River area, the Conoco refinery has one of the major pipelines bringing in Canadian tar sands.” Petcoke isn’t considered toxic by the Environmental Protection Agency, and there are no known health risks to breathing in petcoke dust. Durbin is asking both the EPA and the Centers for Disease Control to begin new testing on its effects on health and the environment.