Living With Dust: Does Pet Coke Endanger Detroit Neighbors?

July 14, 2013, 9:09 AM

Imagine having a potential health risk drift into your rooms anytime a window is open.

Riverside petcoke mounds send possibly harmful particles into apartment at Hudson Lofts off Fort Street and 14th Street Lofts off West Lafayette.
[Photo by James Fassinger]

That's what some Southwest Detroiters endure from nearby piles of petroleum coke alongside the Detroit River, as Keith Matheny describes in the Free Press.

The presence of pet coke in homes has some questioning whether state and city officials are doing enough to protect the public from potential impacts resulting from the piles, a byproduct of tar sands oil refining that’s considered a cheap, if dirty, fuel commodity. ...

The neighborhood within a mile of the pet coke pile is home to thousands of city residents. Whether dust from the pile is putting their health at risk remains a matter of debate.

Matheny speaks with state officials for a front-page update.

Officials with the state Department of Environmental Quality have observed dust blowing off the pet coke pile northeast of the Ambassador Bridge. They responded to another complaint in May from a resident [at Hudson Lofts] and confirmed pet coke dust there. . . .

Jeff Korniski, a senior environmental engineer with the DEQ’s Air Quality Division in Detroit, said: “There have been visual observations of dust leaving the site” of the pet coke piles.

The reporter also quotes research director Jeff Gearhart of the Ecology Center, an environmental nonprofit in Ann Arbor:

“We’re very concerned about distribution of fine particulate from this source and other sources. . . .

"The DEQ has unnecessarily claimed that they don’t see any hazards associated with this site, when they simply don’t have the data to support that.” . . .

Vanadium, one of the metals found in the pet coke dust, is possibly cancer-causing in humans in prolonged or elevated exposure levels. . . . Vanadium levels in air samples near the pet coke piles are not being monitored — only fine particulate levels, said Lynn Fiedler, assistant division chief of the DEQ’s Air Quality Division.

The pet coke comes from a nearby Marathon Oil refinery, Matheny explains. It's stored on land owned by the family of billionaire Manuel (Matty) Moroun.

Read more:  Detroit Free Press

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