May 22, 2013 Bookmark and Share

Tlaib Unveils "Pet Coke" Test Results

MDEQ's conclusion of 'no significant public health risk' is overstated

Tlaib Unveils “Pet Coke” Test Results

DETROIT - State Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) released the results of an independent analysis today of petroleum coke samples. The samples were tested for metals and other hazardous elements by the Ecology Center, a nonprofit environmental-based organization in Ann Arbor. Tlaib gathered the samples in late March during a protest opposing the large piles of “pet coke” being dumped on the edge of the Detroit River.

Petroleum Coke, otherwise known as “pet coke,” is a byproduct of refined tar sands and is characterized as being very similar to coal. The difference between coal and pet coke is that pet coke is dirtier. Pet coke is carbon dense, which causes it to emit up to 10 percent more carbon dioxide than coal into the air. For example, a ton of pet coke can yield an average of 53.6 percent more carbon dioxide than the same amount of coal.

“Getting the results today put our community one step closer to understanding the environmental and health impacts of ‘pet coke,’” Tlaib said. “There are still serious concerns about the lack of a comprehensive long-term plan, data collection and more importantly air quality monitoring in the surrounding neighborhoods. I commend Detroit City Council’s Committee on Public Health and Safety, who listened to the concerns of residents and agreed to file an injunction to remove the piles being stored illegally along the Detroit River.”

Jeff Gearhart, Research Director at the Ecology Center said, “The analysis affirms the results of testing done by Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), and was what we expected. Two of the toxic metals we detected, selenium and vanadium, are of concern in runoff and dust. MDEQ’s conclusion of ‘no significant public health risk’ is overstated and mostly based on modeling, not actual environmental monitoring. I am still dissatisfied with the lack of on-the-ground data on air quality and particulate matter due to the un-permitted open storage of petroleum coke.”

The MDEQ has admitted that in reference to air particulate matter,”…there are none [monitors] that are positioned to adequately measure any impacts that the petroleum coke storage piles have on the nearby ambient air PM2.5 levels.” The nearest MP2.5 monitor is more than 1 mile away.

The study found somewhat higher rates of sulfur, chlorine and carbon in the samples collected by Tlaib, but they are still consistent with current data on pet coke. The high rate of sulfur explains the rotten-egg smell that the piles release. Detroit is home to Michigan’s only oil petroleum refinery, which processes the pet coke.

The results of the study can be found on Rep. Tlaib’s website at


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Rashida H. Tlaib

State Representative Rashida H. Tlaib

6th House District

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