Pet coke piles shrink as storage company awaits permit

The last remaining company storing petroleum coke on the banks of the Detroit River says it's making changes to storage methods in an effort ease the fears of environmentalists.

Detroit Bulk Storage says it didn't know it needed a permit to store the oil refinery byproduct

Detroit Bulk Storage makes changes to storage of pet coke while another protest takes place in Windsor and Detroit. 2:25

The last remaining company storing petroleum coke on the banks of the Detroit River says it's making changes to storage methods in an effort ease  the fears of environmentalists.

Noel Frye of says the piles that were once three or four storeys high will be drastically reduced in height. He says the company is planning to lower the height of the piles to six metres, or about 20 feet.

Frye also says the company is awaiting outdoor storage permits to store the material to be approved by the City of Detroit. He claims the company didn't know it needed a special permit to store the open pet coke.

"We used  to be on the north side of the [Renaissance Centre] from 1989 to 2001, doing the same operation — not with pet coke but with limestone and salt — and while we were down there, we never needed a permit," Frye said.

Frye believes his company is doing its due diligence to keep the site safe. He also claims the Environmental Protection Agency has deemed the pet coke is not toxic.

He says the company has previously capped drains, paved the area beneath the pet coke and sloped the ground away from the waterway. He says staff also sprays the piles with epoxy to keep the dust down.

However, members of the environmental group Windsor on Watch aren't satisfied.

"The question is how much of it are we being exposed to? Is it going into our water? Are we breathing it? what's going to be the long term health impacts?" asked Windsor on Watch member Jim Brophy.

Protest held Tuesday night

Windsor on Watch staged a demonstration on the riverfront Tuesday night,  demanding the removal of piles of petroleum coke on the Detroit side of the river.

The group called it "pots and pans joint action" because the Sierra Club staged a similar demonstration on the Detroit side at the same time.

"We're here to create a voice and to say we don't agree with what's happening," said Suzy Myskow.

"I think that it shows that we're together both sides of the river," said Randy Emerson. "We're both against this and we want something done about it."

Nicholson Terminal and Dock Company, which manages operations at storage site southwest of the Ambassador Bridge, has reportedly decided to no longer accept pet coke on the site.