What We Know
SDEV is monitoring news and working to gather info and help you respond on the two recent issues of concern with operations at Marathon Petroleum. The two issues of concern are:
1. Marathon’s request to get around the City of Detroit fugitive dust ordinance, which requires that petroleum coke piles be covered.
2. The equipment failure at Marathon between January 31 and February 4 which caused air emissions that smelled and made people sick.
Watch this page for more details as information becomes available.
The new date for the Marathon air violation public hearing with the Detroit City Council is April 30,
2019 at 2:00 p.m.
Public comment closes on 3/18/2019 as the City of Detroit Buildings, Safety, Engineering, and Environmental Department (BSEED) considers a request by Marathon to store pet coke uncovered at the Detroit Refinery (Issue No. 1 on this webpage).
Issue of Concern 1: Marathon request to store pet coke uncovered
In January 2019, The City of Detroit held a hearing on the issue of Marathon wanting to bend the rule requiring that they cover a large pile of petroleum coke. Marathon has filed a request for a variance from the City of Detroit fugitive dust ordinance. (A variance means
Why is this of concern?
The rule that petroleum coke (and other types) of large storage piles be covered and best dust management practices be followed exists to protect public health and air, soil, plants, and water (the environment) from potential harm. The information provided in Marathon’s request for variance does not make the case that there is good reason to bend that rule. The information Marathon provided doesn’t make clear that public health and the environment will be protected if the variance is approved. As far as we can tell, Marathon has been in violation of the ordinance by not building an enclosure to store this material since March 2018.
On top of the public health and environmental health concern, the City of Detroit’s department overseeing the rule (BSEED) did not follow the requirements of the ordinance around public notification and timing for holding a public hearing on the request for variance. When the City doesn’t follow its own rules, residents do not have ample time to respond to actions that might impact them.
Information Resources for Issue of Concern 1:
Summary of concerns from Great Lakes Environmental Law Center here.
Submit comments opposing the request for
Issue of Concern 2: Marathon equipment failure that led to air emissions
Between the dates of January 31, 2019 and February 4, 2019, many people in metro Detroit began experiencing symptoms including but not limited to: irritation of the nasal passages, fast heartbeat, headache, nausea and vomiting. Many people were awakened in the middle of the night with symptoms. Personal accounts also describe individuals going to emergency rooms with symptoms similar to panic attack (racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, difficulty concentrating/focus, etc.). These symptoms and an odor in the air occurred around the same time as an equipment failure at the Detroit Marathon Refinery. Residents of Detroit were not notified of the equipment failure and associated release of air emissions, while residents of some neighboring communities were notified through their fire departments. Community members were left to fend for themselves with no information other than, eventually, Marathon’s own statements that federal air quality standards were not violated. The City of Detroit City Council Committee of the Whole will discuss this issue on Tuesday, March 12, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. on the 13th floor of the Coleman Young Municipal Building on Woodward.
What You Can Do About These Issues
City of Detroit BSEED is accepting comment from residents on the Marathon variance request (Issue 1, above). The deadline to submit
- Click here to add your information and submit a prewritten letter regarding Issue 1. (We will share your letter with elected officials, the Mayor, BSEED.)
- Click here to submit comments and concerns with us. We will submit to BSEED on your behalf.
- Be prepared to attend meetings with various city officials.
If you wish to submit comment by post mail or webmail to City of Detroit BSEED, rather than using the SDEV created webform you can write to:
Coleman A. Young Municipal Center
2 Woodware Ave., Suite 401
Detroit, MI 48226
Or: use the City’s webform at: https://app.smartsheet.com/b/form/94a8382bd27c482c85e6cb059e86f2f3
Watch SDEV’s Facebook feed for updates on Marathon. You can also visit this site www.sdevweb.org, join our email list by writing “Subscribe” in the subject line of an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 313-842-1961 and ask to be on the phone call list for issues of concern.
Marathon News Articles
Marathon Petroleum in Detroit ‘cannot be trusted’ says Windsor MP BY PAUL PEDRO, FEBRUARY 26, 2019
Local concerns renewed after Detroit oil refinery applies to leave
Rep. Rashida Tlaib: Don’t let Marathon violate environmental rules.
Marathon: We responsibly handle pet coke at southwest Detroit refinery. Dave Roland, Published 7:00 a.m. ET Feb. 22, 2019, Free Press
Marathon wants to keep storing pet coke uncovered near Detroit River Keith Matheny, Detroit Free Press Published 4:41 p.m. ET Feb. 15, 2019
U.S. Reps pen open letter to EPA, MDEQ expressing concerns over Marathon refinery emissions, By Colin Maloney, Feb 24, 2019, News Herald
Marathon Petroleum responds to
Detroit Marathon Oil Refinery repairs could last into next week By Shawn Ley – Reporter, Dane Sager Kelly – Web Producer, Posted: 6:17 PM, February 09, 2019
Smell From Marathon Refinery Could Strike Again In Southwest Detroit Residents with extreme sensitivity to odors are encouraged to stay inside. FEBRUARY 08, 2019 – 5:02 PM, WWJ Radio 950
Marathon says cold weather may have caused flare system problem, Christine Ferretti, The Detroit News Published 12:15 p.m. ET Feb. 5, 2019
Marathon Petroleum faces questions from Detroit City Council over foul odor Posted: 5:49 PM, Feb 05, 2019, Updated: 5:49 PM, Feb 05, 2019,
Detroit City Council puts pressure on Marathon after refinery taints area with foul odor-Southwest Detroit plant emitted smell this weekend, By Larry Spruill – Reporter, Channel 4
Southwest Detroit Residents Demand ‘Buy Our Homes’ After Refinery Smell Snafu “Did they do this because they’re white and we’re black?”, FEBRUARY 04, 2019 – 10:24 AM, WWJ
Marathon confirms foul gas odor is from its Detroit refinery. No dangerous levels of any substances detected, By Natasha Dado, Posted: 6:12 AM, February 03, 2019, Click on Detroit.