14 Sep 2014
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River Rouge Shouldn't be 'Dumping Ground' for Pet Coke, Ficano Says

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano has appealed to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to deny a permit for the storage of petroleum coke, a dirty byproduct of the oil refining process, near Downriver communities.

River Rouge Shouldn't be 'Dumping Ground' for Pet Coke, Ficano Says

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano has asked Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality to deny a permit that would allow Detroit Bulk Storage to locate stories-high piles of petroleum coke in River Rouge.

In a letter to MDEQ Director Don Wyant, Ficano said wind-blown particles of the pet coke – a high-carbon byproduct of tar sands oil refineries that is used as a relatively dirty-burning fuel – would negatively affect the quality of life for residents and businesses near the proposed storage site at 530 E. Great Lakes St. in River Rouge, The News-Herald reports.

In an interview with WDET, Ficano said the best solution would be to not locate the storage facility in River Rouge at all.

“Rouge shouldn’t be looked at as some kind of dumping ground because of its location,” he said. “I know it’s heavily industrial, but people in that area and Downriver deserve quality of life.”

Ficano said a better location would be in a more rural area, and even then precautions would have to be taken to minimize drift. “Putting it in an intense urban area with so many people isn’t wise,” he said.

MDEQ is still reviewing Detroit Bulk Storage’s application. If the storage is allowed, it could supply DTE energy, which operates a nearby coal plant in River Rouge.

In his letter to the Wyant, Ficano said he has received “numerous communications expressing concern” about pet coke storage and transport in Downriver communities. Ficano’s letter and remarks to the radio station follows a hearing in Wyandotte last month when residents of Downriver communities sent a clear message that they don’t want the storage facilities near their neighborhoods.

To their disappointment, they weren’t able to address the agency about the pending permit at the meeting, which the MDEQ said was merely to let residents know a permit application had been made.

Specifically, they wanted to know why River Rouge was being considered as an alternative for pet coke storage when Detroit had so strongly protested storage along the river and succeeded in getting the piles moved. Those living near the three-story high piles of pet coke complained about a black coat of dust settling on their cars and homes, and drifting into windows when they’re open during warm-weather months.

Ficano said Wayne County officials and Downriver residents should be part of the decision-making process. “We’d like to be fully engaged in the process,” he said. “We think residents should be able to weigh in on this.”

A formal public hearing and comment period will be set when officials have completed their review of the application, a process that could take several months.

The MDEQ says there is no evidence that pet coke is worse than other kinds of energy, but environmentalists disagree. They say it’s a byproduct of oil and is dirtier than other fuel sources, including coal.

Opponents to pet coke storage in the area also argue that the effect of pet coke piles on the health of people living near them is unknown.

TELL US: What would you like for the MDEQ to know about a permit application for pet coke storage in the River Rouge area?

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