RIVER ROUGE, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality plans to reject a company's request to store piles of petroleum coke at an open riverfront site in River Rouge, an agency official said.
A public comment period about Detroit Bulk Storage's permit application begins Wednesday and runs through June 25, when there will be a public hearing about it. Although the agency won't officially rule on the application until after the hearing, it told the company Friday that it plans to reject it, department spokesman Brad Wurfel told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Last year, Detroit's mayor ordered the company to remove massive piles of the black, dusty waste product from a site along the Detroit River near the Ambassador Bridge, after many residents complained that it risked polluting the air and water.
Petroleum coke, or petcoke, commonly is burned as fuel in cement kilns and power plants. The piles in Detroit were from Marathon Oil's refining exports from oil sands in Alberta, Canada. Freighters had been taking the piles from the Detroit riverfront to Ohio.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township said an open drain allowed runoff from the piles to seep into the Great Lakes watershed during storms.
A lab analysis by the state last year showed it to be a high-carbon, low toxicity substance that when stored properly poses little threat to human health or the environment. But complaints surfaced in Detroit and across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario, about dust from the piles.
"It does create dust problems. Dust degrades air quality," Wurfel said. "The decision we've come to is based on the operator's history."
Teri Whitehead, an attorney for Detroit Bulk Storage, said Wednesday that the company respects the Department of Environmental Quality's preliminary decision and will follow the process that the state has laid out.
The transfer of the petcoke from Michigan is handled by Koch Minerals, an affiliate of Koch Industries Inc., according to the company. Koch Industries is owned by the conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. They're major donors to conservative political candidates and interest groups.