Rep. Peters wants petroleum coke health study - Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

Rep. Peters wants petroleum coke health study

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U.S. Rep. Gary Peters wants a complete health study of petroleum coke. U.S. Rep. Gary Peters wants a complete health study of petroleum coke.

The petroleum coke keeps pouring in and piling up along the Detroit riverfront at the foot of the Ambassador Bridge where it is stored before being loaded up and shipped out.

"They should move it," says Guy Walker.

He fishes right next to a property owned by Matty Maroun and leased to Norfolk Southern. That company contracts with Detroit Bulk Storage to store the pet coke that belongs to Koch Carbon, sold to the Koch Brothers' company by Marathon Oil. This stuff is like coal, but much dirtier.

"What happens to the dust when you have wind, dust from this material, which is very high in sulfur, very high in a variety of metals, gets blown around?" says U.S. Rep. Gary Peters.

The petroleum coke is a byproduct of the tar sands refining done at the Marathon refinery. Peters is introducing legislation for a complete health study on petcoke.

"When you have a rain event like we had today, where is that material going as the water then washes it down?" Peters says. "I assume being close to the river, it probably goes into the river and goes into the Great Lakes."

Peters says so many communities need to be concerned about this because of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline now pending approval in Washington that would transport heavy crude from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

"We better understand how we store this properly and understand the damage that it can do to the environment, not just in the storage, but also when you burn this pet coke and it gets into the air and the CO2 and the impact that it has on climate change, as well," Peters says.

The problem with this pet coke besides being dirty is that the proper permits were not pulled before dumping it just blocks from homes and popular businesses.

"I raise this question to the people that are storing this here, that have brought this here and that are making money off of it, would you put your nephews and nieces around it?" says Phil Cooley, owner of Slow's BBQ.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says Detroit Bulk Storage has submitted to them their plans for water runoff and for dust. Those plans are currently under review.

In addition, a spokesperson for Detroit Bulk tells Fox 2 they laid down asphalt and graded the property to slope toward the middle prior to bringing in the materials several months ago, and they are spraying a sealant on the mounds to diminish the dangers that could be associated with the dust.

"While we're concerned about the dust, the particulate matter, the runoff into the river today, the question is what will happen long term?" says Nick Schroeck, executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center.

Detroit Bulk tells Fox 2 freighters will be at the site every two weeks to haul away the pet coke.

The following is a statement and other key points from Detroit Bulk Storage:

"We understand the concerns the community has about their health and safety.  We have similar concerns for the community and for our employees.

We proactively work to minimize the dry bulk products we transfer to ships by spraying them regularly with water as well as an epoxy like substance that minimize any fugitive dust.

In October 2012, before any pet coke was received or stored, the yard was asphalted in order to have impermeable surface.  The pad was specifically sloped away from the river so that any accumulated water would gather in one location so that it could be treated under the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP).

Detroit Bulk has followed every rule and regulation as it relates to its storage and has found additional ways to enhance the safety and security around the perimeter.

We will continue to work with the DEQ and City and welcome the opportunity to address the concerns of the community."

-- Daniel Cherrin, Spokesman Detroit Bulk Storage

Other Key Points:

An application for a permit to store the pet coke in its current location has been submitted to the City of Detroit for review. A variance has also been requested.

Detroit Bulk continues to work with government officials, ensuring full compliance. In addition, Detroit Bulk has taken some additional precautions to minimize an environmental impact caused by runoff or dust to persons, property and the River.

This includes:

Detroit Bulk Storage has certified three employees with the DEQ Storm Water runoff program.

Detroit Bulk Storage has laid six acres of asphalt in a way where any runoff water would slope away from the Detroit River and towards the center of the pad in compliance with DEQ guidelines.  The asphalt provides an impermeable barrier between the pet coke and the ground soil.

Detroit Bulk continuously sprays the roadways and the active piles of pet coke with water from a 3000 gallon tanker truck to minimize fugitive dust in the air, water or land around the property.

Detroit Bulk sprays the piles with an encrusting agent similar to an epoxy seal on non-active piles to trap fugitive dust.  The absence of a traditional canvas or tarp on the piles, does not indicate that the piles have not been sealed in order to prevent the emission of dust particles.

Detroit Bulk has a vacuum truck on the property which is used as needed to conform to the Fugitive Dust Plan submitted to the DEQ.  Detroit Bulk also takes it upon themselves to clean the streets surrounding the yard of any additional pet coke that may have been inadvertently tracked off of the property.

With the shipping season underway, empty vessels will appear at the docks every two weeks or sooner to be loaded with pet coke which will result in smaller stockpiles along the river.

The community concerns about their health and safety while the petroleum coke may be stockpiled outside awaiting transport are understandable; however ports throughout the Great Lakes, from the Port of Quebec to the Port of Chicago, have similar facilities. However, their ports are located in more industrial areas, away from the downtown area and neighborhoods.  We welcome the opportunity to talk with others about the precautions being taken to ensure the health and safety of our community.

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