Regulators deny pet coke storage permit

By Tereasa Nims
Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE – Residents from here and other Downriver communities opposed it, and last Thursday the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality denied a permit request to store of petroleum coke in River Rouge.

The denial reportedly was due to the heavy opposition from residents and city officials, said Wayne County Executive Director William Ficano.

Detroit Bulk Storage sought a permit from the Air Quality Division of the MDEQ to store pet coke. For much of 2013, the storage of pet coke along the Detroit River created a hornet’s nest of controversy.

A coalition of residents, politicians and environmental supporters successfully had a three-story pile of the product moved from a site in southwest Detroit.

No pet coke is stored in the area.

In a March Wyandotte City Council meeting, city officials opposed the storage of pet coke nearby, all saying they didn’t want to expose residents to it. Mayor Joseph Peterson said the city intended to go the mile to prevent the public nuisance caused by the emissions of airborne particulates from the storage, handling, and transport of pet coke.

City officials unanimously believe it is in the best interest of the public health, safety and welfare to prohibit anything to do with the substance.

Residents were thrilled, especially those with respiratory illnesses, such as resident Sandy Clay who said the last thing she wanted was to see pet coke in her environment, something she thinks could potentially worsen her condition. She also cited a lack of studies on its impact on people as a concern.

Detroit Bulk Storage officials were not available for comment.

“I am delighted the words and voices of Downriver and southwest Detroit residents as well as business owners against the storage of pet coke at Detroit Bulk Storage were heard by the MDEQ,” Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano said. “I was happy to be part of the opposition against its storage and am pleased our Downriver and southwest Detroit residents will not have pet coke stored near their homes and offices.”

Petroleum coke is a solid by-product of petroleum refining that contains high concentrations of carbon and sulfur. It also has trace elements of metals, such as lead, nickel, chromium and vanadium. The black dust from the substance is known to cover homes, yards and cars of neighborhoods near pet coke storage facilities, and, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, inhaling pet coke can contribute to respiratory health problems, particularly for individuals who suffer from heart and lung disease.

(Tereasa Nims can be reached at