While primarily located in Whiting, Indiana, it also spans the neighboring cities of Hammond and East Chicago. Within East Chicago is a historic community known as Marktown, solidly located in BP refinery's shadow. These communities are ethnically diverse and include a large proportion of low-income families. While the residents may struggle, BP continues to expand its already-sprawling footprint with new equipment.
BP refinery's expansion has resulted in additional pollution and impurities in the air for all these residents. They believe that numerous serious public health issues in their community are caused by environmental pollution. One such pollutant is radon gas, an airborne cancer-causing poison. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that one in three Whiting homes have radon levels over the safety threshold of 4 pCi/L. The high levels of air pollution have created an area that has the 8th highest risk of cancer in the US. Residents are 17 times more likely to develop cancer than the national average.
Clayton Mark, who planned a complete residential community for his workers at The Mark Manufacturing Company, founded Marktown in 1917. This community of some 300 residents was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The industrial complexes in East Chicago have expanded, and now directly abut Marktown.
Despite its historical designation, due to its location many of Marktown’s properties have been purchased by BP and destroyed – purportedly to make room for a parking lot. As a result, the residents of Marktown find themselves at odds with both BP and their neighbors. Some are eager to sell, as they believe that they stand to gain financially from this transaction. Others are wary of BP’s plan, as so far the known purchase prices fall far too short of expectations and seem unfair.
Many residents have purchased their home within the past decade with the intention of remaining in their home for the rest of their lives. Based on this intention they have spent a good amount of labor and money making improvements. Others obtained their property by capitalizing on the low property values, have not made any improvements and stand to gain from any sales that occur.There are many who have spent their entire lives in the area. For those that have paid for their homes in full, they find it difficult to foresee a situation where they would be able to sell their properties to BP and move to a similar home elsewhere. This is especially problematic for those living on fixed retirement incomes after years of work.
Marktown’s property acquisition is only one aspect of the effects this refinery has had on the community. Some 100,000 people live near and around this facility and are immediately affected by its operation.
This is an ongoing project to document the lives of those living under the physical and environmental shadow of BP refinery. It has been an honor to meet many of the residents along these areas, invited into their homes and allowed to photograph their lives.