Oil and Water Don’t Mix: Rally Kicks Off Great Lakes Resistance to Tar Sands Oil

August 13, 2013

On July 14 a large crowd, made up of citizens from Michigan, Wisconsin, and across the midwest, gathered at the northern base of the Mackinaw bridge on a crytalline summer day to make noise about plans to pipe tar sands oil underneath the pristine waters of the Straits of Mackinaw. Filmmaker Bill Latka was there.

Among the luminaries addressing the crowd was Bill Mckibben, setting out on a cross country trip to raise more awareness about climate and misguided exploitation of exotic fossil fuel sources like Tar Sands and Oil shale.  Citizens sounded off about oil spills that have already occurred in the midwest area, including the disastrous 2010 Tar Sands dilbit spill in the Kalamazoo river, still not successfully cleaned up, and the growing piles of petcoke from Tar Sands refining that are polluting the shores of the Detroit River. (see incredible footage below)

In a world where water is increasingly becoming the most precious of all commodities – it hardly seems rational to treat the world’s largest concentration of fresh water this way. The citizen pressure, coupled with pictures like these, seems to be working.


DETROIT, MI – The petroleum coke piles that have amassed along the Detroit River in recent months are now dwindling and should be gone by fall, but that does not mean they cannot or will not return.

And U.S. Rep. Gary Peters (D – Bloomfield Township) told a community roundtable Tuesday that the growing local concern should now expand its focus beyond the banks of the Detroit River.

Koch Carbon is shipping the large black mounds of tar sands byproduct to a site in Ohio, and Peters said the storage of petroleum coke has now expanded to cities across the country.

“Pet coke must be stored properly whether it’s here in Michigan or wherever these piles are being moved in the Great Lakes region,” Peters said. “Your efforts as small business owners, neighbors, and the community at large to raise concerns over the pet coke’s impact on public health and safety cannot stop now.”

Detroit Bulk Storage, the company responsible for storing the petroleum coke, is currently going through a permitting process with the city and the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Company spokesman Daniel Cherrin said the permitting process will address a “dust mitigation plan,” but that does not necessarily mean the piles will have to be stored in a closed facility, as some politicians and environmentalists have asked for.

“It is common industry practice, particularly on the Great Lakes, to store petroleum coke and other products out in the open , and they are covered with an epoxy,” Cherrin told MLive Tuesday.

That epoxy sealant on Detroit Bulk Storage’s petroleum coke was apparently broken on a windy day last month while the piles we’re being moved onto boats, prompting residents in Windsor, Ontario to shoot footage of black dust from the piles blowing across the Detroit River (video above).

The video was seized upon by Peters, who called it “firsthand evidence” that blow-off from the piles is not being contained.

Cherrin said Detroit Bulk Storage is not taking any more shipments of petroleum coke as it goes through the permitting process, but did not rule out storing it in the future.

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