Concerned residents ask questions about Pet Coke

WYANDOTTE (WXYZ) - Worried about what may be coming to their community, dozens of residents came to hear state experts explain how piles of pet coke, a petroleum byproduct, can be safe.

"Sitting in a pile it would not be a threat to the environment like other compounds would be," said Department of Environmental Quality spokesperson Brad Wurfel.  "But as it blows around in the air it contributes dust… that's a pretty big issue and it's one that a lot of people have expressed concerns about."

The piles towered along the Detroit River last year until protests forced them to be removed.  Now, the controversial byproduct could be moving to River Rouge.

The company that controls the pet coke has applied for a permit to store it there.

The DEQ held a meeting late Wednesday afternoon in at the Grand Harbor Banquet Event Center in Wyandotte to answer any questions from the public and also to provide residents with the facts about pet coke.

"If they are doing continuous turning and transporting of this stuff there is no way to cover it and protect the environment and people in the surrounding neighborhoods against the dust that will affect us," said community activist Theresa Landrum.

"We're concerned that there is very little regulation about how this stuff is stored and that it is going to negatively impact our air, our water, and our community.  This isn't just about Ecorse, River Rouge... this is about all of Michigan and really putting value on all of our resources," said Margi Armstrong of Michigan Clean Water Act.
Wurfel told 7 Action News the DEQ is also concerned about the dust from the pet coke and the department wants stricter oversight in how it is stored.

"We'd be concerned if this was a farm or a pile of limestone," said Wurfel.   "Any kind of dust in the air detracts from people's health so we're cognizant of that."​

A decision on the requested permit could take some time.  

According to Wurfel, the process will involve the community and getting input from residents.

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