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Marathon: Safety device at refinery not working properly, causing gas odor

Posted at 4:56 AM, Feb 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-04 06:44:19-05

(WXYZ) — UPDATE: 4:04PM: Officials with Marathon say that the odor is from a substance called mercaptan, which is added to natural gas to give it a detectable smell. Repairs are currently ongoing and are expected to be completed by the end of day on Monday, Feb. 4.

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UPDATE: 10:17AM: The source of the odor permeating from a Marathon Petroleum refinery was caused by a flare at the refinery that is not properly functioning.

"Flares are safety devices that allow us to safely combust excess materials at the refinery, and we are working on de-activating the flare as safely and quickly as possible," said Jamal Kheiry, a spokesman for the company, in an email statement Sunday.

Kheiry added that air-monitoring resources have been deployed in affected areas. Although there is an odor, dangerous levels of any substance have not been detected.

Marathon also released a statement apologizing to the community for the odor:

"We apologize to the community for the odor and the inconvenience. Our highest priority is the safety of the community where we operate and those who work at our refinery. We will continue to work as safely end quickly as possible to resolve this matter. We are conducting a thorough investigation to determine what caused this release, and we will implement the necessary corrective actions so that this does not happen again."
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A strong gas odor being reported in communities across metro Detroit is coming from a Marathon refinery in Detroit, officials confirmed.

7 Action News has received hundreds of messages and calls from viewers concerned about the odor.

Michigan State Police also confirmed its Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division has been in contact with Marathon Oil to investigate the smell.

"There is a on going investigation on site at Marathon Oil to determine the source," Michigan State Police said in a tweet. "At this time Marathon still shows NO air quality issues on their meters. Based on wind direction Marathon agrees their facility could be the source."

As additional information is obtained we will get it out

— MSP Metro Detroit (@mspmetrodet) February 3, 2019

Marathon Oil officials have scheduled a meeting to brainstorm possible causes of the issue, Michigan State Police added.

In a statement, Marathon officials said they have not detected any dangerous levels of any substances. The statement continues:

Marathon Petroleum is responding to a release at its Detroit refinery that is causing an odor in nearby communities. Air-monitoring resources are deployed in affected areas and have not detected dangerous levels of any substances. We have informed relevant agencies, including the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Detroit Fire Department, Michigan State Police, and the Dearborn Fire Department. We will keep these agencies and emergency responders informed as we respond to the release.

7 Action News is working to get more information. We'll update you on air and online as soon as more information becomes available.