The black, coal-like material, created during the coke refinery process and sold as a fuel source, is piled along the river after it was produced by Marathon Petroleum's nearby oil refinery and sold to Koch Minerals LLC, the Detroit News reported Tuesday.
Nick Schroeck, executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, referred to the slowly dwindling mountains of petroleum coke as "illegal dumping. It's illegal storage along the riverfront."
Residents of southwest Detroit have complained about black and gritty airborne dust from the piles, saying it has invaded their homes, caused headaches and irritated eyes and damaged the surface of their cars.
"Many experts think that pet coke is the dirtiest of all the fuels you can burn. This material is a byproduct of Canadian tar sands. You're going to see this issue grow as time goes on," Peters said in requesting a federal government study concerning regulations pertaining to petroleum coke and possible risks it may pose to public health and to the environment.