The remains of the Cline Avenue bridge tower near the ArcelorMittal steel mill outside of Marktown. The bridge has seen two tragedies. In 1982, two sections of the unfinished Cline Avenue bridge collapsed, killing 14 construction workers and injuring 18 more. Following GPS instruction, a man drove off the ledge, falling 37 feet, in March of 2015. He survived, but his wife died in the crash.
Steel mills and oil refineries encircle Marktown, a northwest Indiana neighborhood on the National Register of Historic Places. Built as an idyllic and self-sustaining community for mill workers 99 years ago, Marktown is now economically blighted and isolated.
To process a surge of tar sands oil from Alberta, British Petroleum (BP) expanded its Whiting refinery to the neighborhood’s northern boundary in 2013. BP demolished ten abandoned buildings in 2014, with plans to purchase and raze Marktown’s remaining homes and businesses.
Many homeowners — including some whose families have lived in the neighborhood for four or five generations — are rallying to save Marktown, though the refinery’s pollution plagues their health. They also worry about flare-ups — towers of flame and smoke that relieve pressure after a malfunction — which have recently blanketed the refinery in thick, black smoke.
Marktown is a liability for BP, and the firm has offered $4,545 to $30,000 for the properties. Many residents are holding out for more money. Most feel the destruction of their homes is inevitable.
More alarming than the impending removal of 50 remaining families is how the refinery pollutes the air and nearby Lake Michigan. Tar sands oil production is a particularly dirty process that creates petroleum coke, a sulfurous byproduct that can cause serious health effects if inhaled, including cancer.
Chicago Freelance Documentary Photographer | Alyssa Schukar | Photojournalist