May 21, 2014 at 1:00 am

State denies Detroit Bulk Storage permit to store petroleum coke in River Rouge

State officials have denied a permit to store an oil refinery byproduct known as petroleum coke at a River Rouge site, marking a second major setback in one year for the company looking to stockpile it.

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality has rejected an application from Detroit Bulk Storage to store pet coke at its facility on West Great Lakes Street in River Rouge. In 2013, the company faced opposition from residents and elected officials when massive piles of the coal-like material appeared just off Jefferson Avenue west of downtown Detroit.

Detroit Bulk Storage eventually removed the material — much to the delight of opponents on both sides of the Detroit River who feared potential health problems from dust blowing off the site. The worries were stoked in part by video footage on YouTube in July showing large clouds of pet coke blowing off the riverside site.

In December, company officials tried a different tack by seeking permission to store the material eight miles south down the Detroit River at its headquarters. But DEQ officials said they are denying the permit request because of the fugitive dust issue.

“Given this operator’s history, and the fact that they’re proposing to essentially do the same thing in a different spot, the DEQ is moving to deny this permit application,” said Brad Wurfel, a DEQ spokesman in a written response to questions.

“The DEQ does not move to deny many permit applications. We don’t want this read as a broader statement about pet coke. But this application in this location does not give DEQ the necessary confidence that we won’t be continually called to cite the operator for dust complaints. The lesson learned last year is that dust containment needs to be a serious consideration for pet coke storage.”

Detroit Bulk Storage officials could not be reached for comment. When they applied for the permit, they said they would take steps to contain dust issues.

State researchers have maintained the petroleum coke does not pose a health threat to humans or wildlife, yet many residents in both areas targeted by Detroit Bulk Storage have opposed the storage.

jlynch@detroitnews.com
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