Company appeals pet coke storage ban on Detroit River

The company that was storing petroleum coke on the banks of the Detroit River last year appears to want to do so again.

Detroit Bulk Storage had piles of oil byproduct 12 metres high across from Windsor

Detroit Bulk Storage will appeal an August 2013 ruling on Feb. 11 in Detroit. (Associated Press File Photo)

The company that was storing petroleum coke on the banks of the Detroit River last year appears to want to do so again.

According to documents filed to the City of Detroit's board of zoning appeals, Detroit Bulk Storage is appealing the city's decision to disallow the company from storing the crude oil byproduct alongside the river.

Petroleum coke, also known as pet coke, is a black, coal-like byproduct produced in the petroleum industry. It's used as cheap fuel.

Detroit's buildings safety engineering and environmental department (BSEED) in August of last year denied Detroit Bulk Storage's request to store "petroleum coal or coke type material" in an existing storage yard across from Windsor and waive the maximum height requirement for storage of material there.

The piles along the Detroit River last year reached heights of 12 metres, or 40 feet.

The company will appeal that decision Feb. 11 at 10:30 a.m. in Detroit, according the board of zoning appeals' website.

Detroit Bulk Storage claimed it didn't know a special permit was needed to store pet coke in the open air on its riverside property.

"The dust from those uncovered piles does get into the apartments that are the property," said activist Stephen Boyle of the Detroit Coalition Against Tarsands.

He says there are apartments "within 500 yards" of the storage lot.

Boyle plans to be at the appeals hearing, which is open to the public.

"We need the public to come out the meeting," Boyle said. "The uncovered storage of pet coke is a health hazard. It’s an eyesore to the city of Detroit which is trying to move the riverfront into a beautiful space.

"How does it make sense to have this beautiful space right up against an industrial dump?"

Former Detroit Mayor Dave Bing ordered the pet coke removed last August.

Dust from the piles could be seen blowing across the Detroit River and into the west end of Windsor.

Several environmental groups and activists, including the Sierra Club and Windsor on Watch, protested the storage.

"Oh my god, you've got to be kidding me," Windsor West NDP MP Brian Masse said when CBC informed him of Detroit Bulk Storage's plan to appeal.

"Canada needs to be as concerned about the storage of pet coke and the runoff from that pet coke as we are," Boyle said.

As a precautionary measure last year, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality ordered three catch basins on the property east of the Ambassador Bridge sealed as a precautionary measure.

Professor Jan Ciborowski of the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research at the University of Windsor previously told CBC that pet coke poses no bigger threat than piles of aggregate currently stored on the Canadian side of the river on Windsor's west end.

He said  pet coke "is not a hazardous substance."

Detroit Bulk Storage officials declined to comment.


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