Thanks to the Koch Brothers, the pile of petcoke poison in Detroit is moving just a few miles down river

detroit petcoke
Detroit petcoke on it’s river’s edge

Last year Detroit residents, of what is already considered “Michigan’s most polluted zip code,” began noticing that their cars, homes and lungs were being coated with a black dust. The coating caused some residents to suffer chemical burns and respiratory problems. After some investigation the source of this black dust was soon traced back to a substance known as “petcoke.”

Petcoke, also known as petroleum coke is a byproduct of tar sand oil refining and has little value here in the United States. It is considered “the dirtiest residue from the dirtiest oil on earth” according to one recently published study by Lorne Stockman.

Koch Carbon quietly used Detroit’s shoreline to dump a pile of petcoke three-stories high that spans one city block. The company is owned by the infamous Koch brothers who back a number of conservative and libertarian causes including activist groups that challenge the science behind climate change.

The company being able to use Detroit’s shoreline as a dumping ground without any accountability to the taxpaying residents is disturbing to say the least. The Fact that the State of Michigan continues to allow it without some sort of compensation for the affected residents is unconscionable.

After complaints from residents began pouring in and the residents began documenting their injuries, Detroit Mayor, David Bing ordered the pile removed.  Koch Industries refused to respond to requests about the pile’s location but said in a statement that it would be moved to Ohio.  However, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency “has not been notified of any shipment of petcoke and there is no requirement to do so.”

Detroit petcokeIt is shocking that a company can move three stories worth of pet coke without any notification to the receiving state.  Shocking that a substance that causes chemical burns like the ones Sherry Griswold documented on her Facebook page (see right) is not highly regulated by government agencies and can be stored anywhere – including near neighborhoods and waterways – without any oversight by environmental agencies in place to protect us.

Detroit petcokeNow, after waiting a little less than a year, the Koch Brothers have come back to Michigan and its business-friendly, Republican-controlled government and moved the petcoke pile just a few miles downriver to Ecorse. While this area is more industrial it also has residential neighborhoods located less than a half-mile away and again, like Detroit, Ecorse has a large African-American population.

An informational hearing is being held on Wednesday when the Department of Environmental Quality will hear resident’s concerns.  However, this is only an informational meeting and residents will have no say in whether the company is allowed to locate on the riverfront site.  Information on the meeting can be found here.

The treatment of Detroit residents should be a warning to all of us.  If you think that it can’t happen where you live – in your community – remember the Keystone XL Pipeline is still a real possibility and the pipeline will bring a lot more petcoke to America.  Who knows where the Koch Brothers will store it all?

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