Articles 2017 - Archived 2017 Series

We will post articles here that we believe are relevant to the positive life of Southeast Chicago Community. Contentiousness can be found on Facebook and most social media, as well as on metropolitan and national media.  We choose to limit our material to that which, in our opinion, does not erode the soul of the community.  However, we will also reserve the right to comment about community matters that concern us.  Our site, our choice. :-) -- k/j


Hi everyone,

Indiana Harbor Coke Company located on ArcelorMittal Steel property at Lake Michigan in East Chicago is owned by SunCoke-Energy. SunCoke will hold an information meeting on the plant Wednesday August 23, see the notice below. They will send a press notice to the NWI Times regarding the public meeting. This meeting is not the Public Hearing the Southeast Environmental Task Force and others requested. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management will schedule a formal public hearing later. The Indiana Harbor Coke company is constantly in violation of its federal and state air permit since it started operations. We need USEPA and Indiana DEM to enforce air quality permit regulations.

Carolyn Marsh


To Carolyn Marsh

Sent: Thursday, August 17, 2017 1:16 PM
Subject: Indiana Harbor Informational Meeting

Dear Sir or Madam,

We understand that you have an interest in the Indiana Harbor Coke Company (“IHCC”) operating permit renewal process.  We would like to inform you that an informational meeting for the public will be held on Wednesday, August 23, 2017 from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM CT at the Riley Park Pavilion, 1005 E. Chicago Ave,East Chicago, IN.  IHCC representatives will be present to provide additional information regarding the facility and answer any questions that you may have.  We invite you to attend.


Katie Batten

Director of Environmental 

SunCoke Energy, Inc.

1011 Warrenville Rd, 6th Floor

Lisle, IL 60532

From Regional Environmentalist, Carolyn Marsh, August 3, 2017

Here are the links to 1. Chicago Tribune’s article, 2. editorial and 3. USEPA’s Letter to the Editor on the Indiana Harbor Coke Co. air permit renewal. The IHCC coke ovens are on the ArcelorMittal Steel peninsula in East Chicago. IHCC are contractors with ArcelorMittal Steel, U.S. Steel and NIPSCO.

Community organizations and environmentalists requested a public hearing on the IHCC air permit renewal since the company has for years violated the state air permit. The permit renewal is still active and there will be a public hearing. Donald McQuigg, Environmental Manager, Indiana Department of Environmental Management Office of Air Quality, has not scheduled it yet.

July 24, 2017 Michael Hawthorne Contact Reporter Chicago Tribune 

Crackdown on East Chicago air polluter stalls under Trump EPA

…Before Pruitt took office in February, inspectors from the EPA's Chicago office had documented hundreds of violations of federal air pollution standards at the Indiana Harbor Coke Co., which bakes coal into high-carbon coke for steel mills on a sprawling man-made peninsula jutting from the southwest shore of Lake Michigan….

July 24, 2017 Editorial Board: Scott Pruitt's EPA is failing East Chicago


July 28, 2017 Letter to the editor: The EPA continues to promote cleanup of contaminated sites

— Patrick Traylor, deputy assistant administrator, Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Environmental Protection Agency


Carolyn Marsh

Whiting, IN

Simple Arithmetic?  An Observation, and a Confession.

by Kevin P. Murphy

If is interesting -- sometimes puzzling --  to observe the way our nation's broadcasting, e-media, publishing industries, et al., generate truths that do not always bear up under inspection.

I had not given much thought to that outside the realm of political truth-making and advertising until recently, when I suddenly realized that I have been participating in the perpetuation of misinformation that is so blatant, it amazes me that it has taken me so long to realize how wrong, but solidly established, this fallacy is.

A year or two, ago, Joann and I had the pleasure of discovering and reading the book, The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream, by Thomas L. Dyja.  We might even have purchased it at a book store not far from our favorite Chesterton, Indiana, dining spot, "The Third Coast Cafe."   But, even more recently -- possibly during another trip to "The Third Coast Cafe" -- I realized that we have been living in, and perpetuating, an error.

Despite the assertion of "Wikipedia" ( that, "Third Coast is an American colloquialism used to describe coastal regions distinct from the West Coast and the East Coast of the United States. Generally, the term "Third Coast" refers to either the Great Lakes region[1] or the Gulf Coast of the United States.[2]," I refuse to believe that there can be two co-existing "Third Coasts" in this country.  (It is better to not think at all about Hawaii in this discussion!)

Given that the counting of coasts seems to traditionally go from the outer limits (no relation to the 1960s sci-fi TV show), as in Atlantic (FIrst) Coast, Pacific (Second) Coast, AND Gulf (Third) Coast, I argue that the Great Lakes extended shoreline must, logically, be relabeled "The Fourth Coast."

It is regrettable that businesses which prematurely misidentified themselves as “Third Coast” may have to redefine themselves, but they may be compensated by the fact that potential customers will no longer erroneousy seek them out in the bayou country of Louisiana, or its Third (Gulf) Coast neighbor states.

So, this is but one example of how easily we can fail at even simple arithmetic in our defining of important "facts."  How much more difficult may it be when someone has an agenda to promote?


News About Neighborhood Monk Parakeets

Community environmentalist, Carolyn Marsh, has shared this latest information with us:

East Side, 07 and 09 July 2017: This is the 2017 nesting report on the Chicago Skyway Monk Parakeet colony in SE Chicago. From the Picosito Mexican Grill, I counted 47 stick nests (5 under the bridge and 42 on the southwest side of the bridge) along 10000 S. Ewing Ave. and Avenues “L” “M” and “N.” Some nests are small with one perfectly round entrance hole, and others are very large, with many connecting compartment entrance holes.

There is much more traffic in this area than in previous years, but the intersection has been improved and greened so one can actually sit under a nest in the small East Side Memorial parkway that has four benches near the army tank monument.

The 2016 count was a high of 50+ nests. Possibly the lower number is because workers maintain and paint the bridge and remove nests accessible on the underside of the bridge. Workers were working July 7 under the bridge at 100th and Ewing. However, the established southwest outer stick nests jammed between sections of pipes are active with nestlings.

The nests are destroyed by the city and state and utility companies as non-native birds, with the approval of institutions and non-government organizations, including bird organizations. However, the Chicago Skyway is leased private property and the Monks are accepted in the community as a novelty. This is a neighborhood near the heavy industrial developed Calumet River, and the Monk’s competitors are House Sparrows and European Starlings that succeed in the harsh environment. They nested in the “hidden” lakefront Calumet Park on light posts and electric transmission boxes in alleyways. New nests are regularly removed. Large colonies of Monk Parakeets once existed in Hyde Park in Chicago and the Village of Burnham on Greenbay Ave. Monk nests on public property and on utility poles are usually removed in NW Indiana as well.

Carolyn Marsh, author: Monk Parakeet: First State Breeding Records and Expansion into Northwest Indiana, Indiana Audubon Quarterly, February 2006

Active connection to above-referenced link:

Can You and I Fix It?


Kevin P. Murphy 

If you are reading this article, you and I may share many things in common, none the least of which, on this date, February 25, 2017, at 0530 hours in the morning (CST), is concern about the state of the world in which we are living, at the neighborhood, municipal, state, national, and international levels.

You and I may, or may not, share a similar historical swath of life experience.   Having been born in the midst of the so-called Great Depression; recalling vividly the moment when we received the news that the Japanese were bombing Pearl Harbor (where a yet-unknown, but much admired, future brother-in-law was stationed at the time), on a morning when we were already worried about family members we hoped had survived "The Blitz" in London, and other as yet-unknown future family members were similarly worried about family members in Poland being menaced by the occupying Nazi Army -- and later by the "liberating" Soviet Army; having experienced the much-maligned 1950s, and having served in our military as what would today be labeled a guardian of national security; having been a participant, and a victim, and undoubtedly perceived as a villain by some of the other participants in the traumatic 1960s; having been economically battered by the turbulent 1970s and early 1980s, and then challenged -- and delighted -- by the increasingly liberating digital revolution of the late 1980s through the rest of the 20th Century, only to wake up in a 21st Century that seems compulsively determined to repeat the major horrors of the 20th Century with vastly increased killing power, as if we were seeking some "Life-Destroying World Championship" award, I feel that I have already experienced a lot of worrisome history.   But, regardless of the foregoing life-thumbnail, and the fact that you may or may not have similar "mileage" on your biological clock, I suspect that we share similar concerns about what lies ahead.

To say that government in our land seems too isolated from the needs of the populace is not a profound news flash.  To observe that the occupants of the decision making parts of that government seem too frequently to care for nothing beyond their own personal advantage ranks as a truism, I have no doubt.   To underscore what appears to be monumental ineptness at guiding our "ship of state" through increasingly hostile international waters seems about as insightful as observing that dawn brings increasing light.  

So, it is very troubling to be moving rapidly into this century with Europe shaking because of economic and military threats from within and without; with Asia being menaced by a desperate petty tyrant, threatening to use nuclear reins to control the tiger from whose whose back he can't safely escape, while large numbers of so-called intelligent people claim to serve divinity by subduing -- or destroying -- religiously different, but equally wonderful, creations of a divinity they believe created them all.  In fact, given the deadly repetitiousness of the first part of this century, it would be quite easy to succumb to a feeling of complete hopelessness regarding the future of life on this so-lovely, tiny, blue sphere -- truly labeled "Spaceship Earth" -- that is carrying us at high velocity through the vastness of space.  At least, this aging survivor of a lot of the preceding century often feels the seductive tug of despair at seeing so many predictable train wrecks forming upon the world's tracks.   

But, then, that same experience also surfaces memories of the things that seem to have mattered most throughout the most horrible of times -- the choices and actions of individuals whose behavior deflected, disrupted, and eventually defeated, the forces of mad self-destruction that so often seem to take control of so many of us.   That realization strongly suggests that, while you and I may have little ability to directly alter immediate global, national, state, or municipal decision making, we have the opportunity to change our local "turf."   You -- and I -- can, by striving to be the very best you, and the very best me, of which we are capable, raise the quality of our immediate home, social, and work environments.  

So, what might that look like?  Suppose, for instance, that you are living in a community in which people whom you care about are at odds with each other over the managing of a project, or projects, for reasons not at all clear to you.  On a smaller scale, it resembles the larger political and geopolitical fractiousness that so dominate the media --and our consciousness -- today.

There are forces at work to move you toward one or the other of the party's "sides" that are involved in the local unpleasantness.  Yet, you realize that (1), like a parent whose children are suddenly blaming each other for some misbehavior that one or the other of them may have been responsible for, you actually have no idea who is actually at fault if, in fact, any of them is "at fault;" worse, you have no clear idea what the real trigger event may have been, nor by whom.   (2) Even more important to you is the realization that the conflict that is emerging is destructive to everyone involved, and to the community, at large, since you believe that the parties now lining up against one another are all valuable to the community, and certainly to each other because, when they have worked in concert in the past, they have made good things happen in the community.  So,  when you and I see such important resource people taking positions that will hurt everyone, themselves included, what can we do to help these precious resource people to refocus and renew their collaborative productivity, when they are feeding on testosterone to the max, and trying to enlist us in "their cause" against the other equally important resource people?  If you and I can come up with a good answer, or answers, to questions like that, we will be well on our way to radiating the positive ingredients outward in our society that will be needed to make this a better century then the one we have recently departed.

To further Illustrate the point about our importance at our level, let us look at another area of concern.  Given the fact that our current government -- at least in Illinois, and at the national level -- appears to be much more inclined to deprive us of, rather than add to, our resources -- we are faced with reductions in educational, environmental, and other socially important programs that will need to be sustained via other means.  Therefore, we will need to be creative about finding ways to fund and sustain the projects that the community requires to remain a healthy organism.

By mining our creativity when resources are increasingly scarce, we may find new ways to do what seems unachievable.  I am reminded, given the fact that yesterday (February 24, 2017) would have been his 62nd birthday, that Steve Jobs is a shining example of that kind of stretching of self and possibilities.  (In the 1940s and 1950s, most of us would have shaken our heads at the notion that one day we would be revolutionizing the way we live by exploring the potential of silicon, probably responding with something like, "We'll be using sand to run our lives?  Riiiiiiiiight!")  So, who will spark the next Silicon Revolution, a chemist researching new possibilities for coal -- or petcoke -- or  Phragmites. . . ?

At our local level, we already have examples of such innovative alternative-finding.   During the feverish early days of modern "green" activism, our community rose to the challenge, developing a month-long "Green Summit" series of events to prepare residents for the new initiatives and industries that would be attracted to our numerous open spaces and the community's green potential.   A key activity was a Green Summit Sites Tour, in which more than 40 green buildings, gardens and open spaces were featured as the focus of a bus tour conducted by experienced members of the community.  

Unfortunately, economic and political wind-shifts reduced funding for the bus tours and, eventually, the funding for such tours disappeared entirely.  However, determined community members resolved that the tour would not be permitted to die, and created, instead, a digitally-based tour that is linked from those sites -- via smart phones or smart tablets -- to online reservoirs of information regarding each site.  The tour has become a self-conducted tour that can be taken, on the ground, online, or as a combination of both, according to visitor preference.  The need for restrictive time schedules, expensive buses, etc., has been eliminated, and replaced by a much more "user-friendly" solution.  

Thus, creative responses to funding and other crises can revive and sustain -- and even improve -- threatened projects when government and other outside funders may fade away. 

Our greatest resource in such close-to-home efforts to improve our portion of the world is, of course, ourselves, because you and I have greater control over that single resource than we have over anything else in the world.  Though that thought may seem too daunting to contemplate, it is also a most liberating possibility.  

Think about it.  We humans spend time and resources each year to search out, and celebrate, persons who have made important contributions to human betterment, whether it be in the sciences, the arts, international relations, or other aspects of life on our planet.  

Great futures, like horrible futures, begin with individuals whose vision leads them to stretch themselves toward the accomplishment of their vision ("We take these resistors, transistors, diodes, and capacitors, and we hook them up, like this, on a circuit board.  Add those other things you dug out of your parts box.  Then, we add a keyboard, and a cathode-ray tube -- AND a connector for a thermal printer -- or maybe dot-matrix? . . . . . . . you're right, Woz -- I think we're really onto something with this baby!”) **

So, improving the future may be up to us -- to you, and to me -- after all.   There is a lot of responsibility there.  But, it may be that this century does not have to make the 20th look like it was really the best century of all.  

Perhaps we can make a difference, even when it seems so likely that those charged with doing the job are not up to it.  Perhaps -- even more importantly -- if you and I make a difference at our level, be "the best us" that is possible, that might send vibes upward that will enable them to do the same thing at their level.  It probably can't get much better than that.  

** My imagined scene, not a verified quotation. - kpm


Medill Reports Chicago Features Local Environmental Advocate, Carolyn A. Marsh

We posted a comment ("Speaking of Grassroots Advocacy . . .”) regarding this article in our 2016 series of articles, as the last entry for 2016.   But we really wanted to have the complete artlcle right here, for visitors to access it instantly, and on this site.   Thanks to the generosity of Medill Reports Chicago, we now have permission to post the complete article.  Our special thanks to Editor Scott Anderson. — kpm




DECEMBER 1, 2016

By Puja Bhattacharjee

Hammond Bird Sanctuary

Medill Reports


Plan to navigate through the Horseshoe Casino parking lot and take a short walk along the lakefront before you can get to the turnstile entrance of the Hammond Bird Sanctuary in Hammond, Indiana.

I followed Carolyn Marsh, 72, into the sanctuary early one morning. Marsh cleaned the bird baths inside the sanctuary, meticulously brushing the dirt off them and filling them with clean water. She refilled the squirrel-proof bird feeders with seeds she bought at her own expense. At times, she paused to point out migrating birds  taking a rest at the sanctuary.

As she was finishing her rounds, the birders started trickling in. The sanctuary is so peaceful. It was hard to tell there were a dozen people watching the birds through their binoculars from beyond the fences in the sanctuary. But the absolute stillness here is punctuated by noises from lawnmowers, cars and people.

Hammond is a heavily industrialized region, southeast of Chicago, known for the British Petroleum oil refinery, ArcelorMittal steel mill, rail yards and the casino, all on the lakefront. But Marsh, who lives in nearby Whiting, wants to make the area known for the bird sanctuary, the only green patch in sight. It attracts thousands of migrating birds every year during spring and fall.

“It has been an exceptional fall migration with songbirds consistently present from the end of August,” she said. “On the Indiana official state bird checklist, there are 39 warbler species and an incredible 26 of them were seen in the sanctuary,” she added.

Marsh grew up on Chicago’s Southeast Side and was a blue collar worker in the steel mills. She bought a house in Whiting as she always dreamed of living on the lakefront and it was “dirt cheap” there. She lost her job when cheaper labor overseas shut down most of the steel industry in the area in the 1980s. Middle-aged, Marsh worked odd jobs but eventually went into early retirement. “I had saved a lot of money so I was OK,” she said.

Then she got hooked on the environment. Several environmental groups trying to clean up the area and preserve open space organized and Marsh started attending their meetings. Prominent among them was Grand Calumet Task Force. The group was pressuring the federal government to clean up the Grand Calumet River, “the most toxic river of North America,” said Geri Wendorf, former secretary, of the now defunct Task Force.

“Our mission has been accomplished. The river now has been remediated,” she added.

The task force also lent its support for a local migrant bird sanctuary. The area on the shores of Lake Michigan became an important stopover site for thousands of migrating birds and butterflies in an otherwise heavily urbanized area.

Marsh got interested and learned all she could about the sanctuary. “For me it was like a full-time job, doing conservation work. I went to meetings sometimes three times a day. There were all these government meetings where they were talking about the birds and bird sanctuary. It was very time-consuming. But I had to do it to learn.”

Carolyn Marsh cleans and fills a bird bath inside the bird sanctuary in Hammond, Indiana, on August 11, 2016. (Puja Bhattacharjee/MEDILL)

She found out that Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO), a gas and electric utility company, owned 16 acres on the lakefront which they had used as a dumping ground for waste concrete in the 1950s and 1960s.

Over the years, trees grew amidst the rubble and started attracting migratory birds. “NIPSCO wanted to push the concrete into the water and make a power plant.” The plan was abandoned in the wake of the Clean Water Act in the 1970s.

A White-breasted Nuthatch lands on one of the bird feeders inside bird sanctuary in Hammond, Indiana on October 8, 2016. (Puja Bhattacharjee/MEDILL)

The City of Hammond developed the Horseshoe Casino and Hammond Marina on the lakefront to give the area a new lease of life. “The city wanted the land from NIPSCO to build condos,” said Marsh.

Marsh, with support from local environmental groups like the Indiana Audubon Society, launched a campaign to keep the land open.

“We never went to court. We fought by building public pressure. NIPSCO owned the property, the city wanted their property. They didn’t give it to the city. They gave it to the Hammond Parks Foundation,” Marsh said. That gift in 1996 made the bird sanctuary possible.

The endangered Kirtland’s warbler was sighted in Whiting Park, a mile away from the sanctuary in May. The same month, a group of birders spotted the rare worm-eating warbler in the sanctuary.

“A lot of gulls come here in the winter. Certain places have a [channel] that keeps the water open. Tens of thousands of ducks come during migration on the lakefront. They will be here two to three weeks and then they fly off,” she said.

Under the deed agreement with the Hammond Parks Foundation, Marsh said, the Hammond Port Authority is supposed to help maintain the sanctuary grounds but doesn’t. She pointed to overgrown bushes, which hide birds from view. “Birders need to see the birds to be able to connect with them.”

“A few years ago, the city wanted to make an asphalt bike trail through the sanctuary and install lights. I told them the birds don’t need light,” said Marsh.

She felt she wasn’t going to win. “I reached out to the biker’s organization and said, ‘You really don’t need to be biking through a bird sanctuary.’ They listened to me.”

The victories keep her going. “Whenever I hit a wall and I say to myself, ‘This is it. I am not going to win.’ Then something unexpected would happen to give me another opening,” she said.

She installed the bird feeders and regularly cleans and fills the bird baths.

“The port authority cares only for the trail in the sanctuary. We go out there whenever necessary. We are not overtly aggressive in that area. We are cautious as a lot of migratory birds come in there,” said Milan Kruszynski, director of the Hammond Port Authority.

The port authority did remove some of the overgrowth. ” We depend on people to point it out to us,” Kruszynski said.

The Hammond Parks Foundation has not responded to requests for comment.

Marsh is worried about who will carry on her work. “The Hammond Parks Foundation has the deed. They too should be active,” she said. “I am a volunteer. I don’t own anything. Technically, they should have volunteer groups. The city has an arrangement with the colleges to have volunteer workers,” she said. Students can work at the sanctuary to learn about birds and earn college credit hours, she added.

Wendorf worries that younger people in the area are not as environmentally conscious. “There aren’t many environmental groups around. That’s a shame. People who were involved in the 1990s are now older or have passed away,” she said.

Marsh encourages people to get active in whatever ways they can. A boy scout came to the sanctuary and installed bird houses last year, she said.

When Sarah de la Rue, an avid birder, moved to Hammond from Idaho in 2010, she sought out Marsh’s help.

“I was looking for the monk parakeet. The Indiana Audubon Society suggested I reach out to Carolyn Marsh,” she said. Marsh showed her around the birding places. De la Rue admires Marsh for what she has done. “It takes a lot of guts to fight the machinery.”

“Attaching yourself to nature is very healing and it keeps you motivated. Instead of looking at nature as the enemy, the bees’ and wasps, you appreciate all that. It keeps you young and curious. You look forward to spring, you look forward to fall,” said Marsh.

Photo at top: Carolyn Marsh fills the bird feeders in the sanctuary in Hammond, Indiana. (Puja Bhattacharjee/MEDILL)

© Kevin Murphy 2016