The Detroit Free Press reports that petcoke at the area in question - northeast of the Ambassador Bridge - is piled up on property owned by the family of billionaire Manuel (Matty) Moroun and leased to Norfolk Southern railroad. Pet coke storage recently ceased at a second site, on Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority property, southwest of the Ambassador Bridge, along the river.
Petcoke is a byproduct of tar sands oil refining. It can be used as a cheap fuel source when combined with coal. The E.P.A. has claimed that it is not carcinogenic, but it contains a variety of toxic metals, and residents have reported respiratory problems due to the thick black dust in the air that also settles in their homes, on their cars, and in the water where they fish. The piles themselves, of course, are also eyesores (see photostream below).
From Occupy Detroit:
Detroit Legal News has an interview here with Nick Schroeck of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center. He discusses some of the health hazards and legal issues, as well as problems with how the E.P.A. reached its determinations. Mr. Schroeck points out that some states have required storage in a covered location or screening to "block the movement of fugitive dust." Also, greater regulatory controls over trucking, handling, and pile maintenance have been imposed upon other Michigan petcoke storage sites, but not for those along the Detroit River.
The piles have been built up over the past couple months with the pet coke being brought by trucks loaded with material from the Marathon Petroleum Refinery in southwest Detroit.
The group spent the morning blocking the entrance way to the dock at the port near West Jefferson Avenue and Rosa Parks. For about three hour, two trucks waited to get through as protesters locked arm-in-arm to prevent it.
Police were the scene but took no action to remove the protesters and made no arrests.Via Fox photostream: