The ancestral home of the Illiniwek, Miami and Potawotami, this was once all marshes and waterfowl. After indigenous removal, the railroads started coming through and the Army Corps of Engineers cut the sandbar and dredged the river in the early 1870′s. Soon the whole area was fouled by industry: steel, oil, automobiles, farm equipment, paint, chemicals… Decline hit in the 1970′s, transforming the landscape beyond recognition. But remediation comes a lot more slowly.
Petcoke is a byproduct of tar sands oil, refined right here in the former marshlands. Can local inhabitants take the Koch brothers to court for crimes against nature and humanity? That’s what the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Southeast Environmental Task Force want to find out.