Ecology Center tests samples from pet-coke mountains rising in Detroit
The “mountains” of pet coke rising in the shadow of the Ambassador Bridge on the edge of the Detroit River have aroused environmental concerns at the local, state, national and international levels.
Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib, who represents the neighborhood where the pet coke has been piled up, called on the Ecology Center to test samples she collected at the site earlier this year and cited the results in her call for state action.
“Two of the toxic metals we detected, selenium and vanadium, are of concern in runoff and dust,” according to Jeff Gearhart, research director at the Ecology Center. “The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s conclusion of ‘no significant public health risk’ is overstated and mostly based on modeling, not actual environmental monitoring. I am still dissatisfied with the lack of on-the-ground data on air quality and particulate matter due to the un-permitted open storage of petroleum coke.”
Pet coke is a byproduct of refining tar sands oil to be used in energy production. Pet coke is carbon dense, and a ton of pet coke can yield an average of 53.6 percent morecarbon dioxide than the same amount of coal.
“Getting the results put our community one step closer to understanding the environmental and health impacts of ‘pet coke,’” Tlaib said in a statement. “There are still serious concerns about the lack of a comprehensive long-term plan, data collection and more importantly air quality monitoring in the surrounding neighborhoods. I commend Detroit City Council’s Committee on Public Health and Safety, who listened to the concerns of residents and agreed to file an injunction to remove the piles being stored illegally along the Detroit River.”
The concerns have also led Michigan’s congressional delegation to call for an investigation into health and environmental risks posed by the pet coke piles along the Detroit River. Rep. Gary Peters introduced a bill to seek information on how Michigan residents are affected by the mounds in southwest Detroit, and he was supported by Reps. John Conyers, John Dingell, Sander Levin and Dan Kildee.
“The government’s silence on this has been deafening,” Essex MP Taras Natyshak said in a report on the CBC. “If the premier has known residents and local leaders have been concerned about pet coke then why hasn’t she taken any action to resolve this problem?”
“The Ministry of Environment has contacted Environment Canada as this is an international situation that has arisen,” Ontario’s minister of environment Jim Bradley said. “We hope to see it resolved as quickly and as expeditiously as possible. We find the situation as it exists unsatisfactory.”
EcoLink — June 2013 Ecolink An online publication of the Ecology Center