- Associated Press - Monday, October 12, 2015

DETROIT (AP) - The storage of a coal-based byproduct along the Detroit River that city officials said was initially there without permission has prompted concerns.

The piles of coke breeze were placed at the site of the former Revere Copper facility by Waterfront Petroleum Terminal Co., the Detroit Free Press reported (https://on.freep.com/1LDyFrN ).

The powder is derived from metallurgical coal that’s been baked into a charcoal-like substance that can be burned in blast furnaces during iron processing, the newspaper said. It’s also used as an aggregate material in concrete and isn’t a known carcinogen.

Beth Gotthelf, an attorney for Waterfront Petroleum Terminal, said there was “a difference of opinion on whether or not a permit is required … for this product.” But the company “immediately ceased bringing the material on-site” when city officials informed the company they believed a permit was required.

“Waterfront is committed to comply with all state and local environmental requirements,” she said.

Gotthelf did not provide information on how much coke breeze is stored along the river, and when it first arrived. She said it was “very recently” brought from other locations in Detroit to prepare it for shipping to an overseas buyer on a freighter.

Paul Max, an environmental specialist with the city’s Building, Safety, Engineering and Environmental Department, said a city inspector gave Waterfront Petroleum Terminal a notice to remove the piles last month, and company officials have been in negotiations with the city since.

“They don’t have the permits required to store it there,” Max said. He said company officials have agreed to have the material removed by Nov. 20.

Waterfront Petroleum Terminal has submitted plans to control fugitive dust and to avoid stormwater pollution. The city will issue a temporary permit allowing Waterfront Petroleum Terminal to store the coke breeze until it can be removed, Max said.

State Rep. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, on Friday called for the state Department of Environmental Quality to investigate the piles and their potential health impacts.

“I am concerned and would like to know if coke breeze could be more likely to travel in the air and if it could harm people if ingested into their lungs,” Chang said in a statement.

The state DEQ said it plans to send an inspector to the site, but noted that the material doesn’t require a state permit.

In 2013, another company’s massive piles petroleum coke along the Detroit River prompted complaints from residents about of an air and water pollution risk from the byproduct of oil refining. They were removed after an order from Detroit’s mayor.


Information from: Detroit Free Press, https://www.freep.com

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