DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - Remaining mounds of petroleum coke have been removed from the Detroit riverfront ahead of a city-imposed deadline but more time is needed to haul construction materials away from the sites, according to a storage company.
Mayor Dave Bing, citing concerns about the health of people living near the piles, set Tuesday as the deadline for Detroit Bulk to get rid of all the petroleum coke it was storing.
"Detroit Bulk has removed its inventory of petroleum coke at the request of the city," said company spokesman Daniel Cherrin. "Detroit Bulk has however, not been able to remove all of the other aggregate there and have been in contact with the city regarding their plans for the removal of limestone aggregate."
Limestone aggregate often is used to help build roads. Cherrin said a construction project using the limestone was to start this week and that the company anticipated having all of the aggregate removed by early next month.
"Detroit Bulk has asked the city for the additional time in ensuring the proper removal of the limestone," he said.
Petroleum coke, also known as pet coke, is a black, rock-like substance produced by the petroleum industry and used as a fuel.
The piles in Detroit resulted from Marathon Oil's refining exports from oil sands in Alberta, Canada. Freighters have been taking the piles from the Detroit riverfront to Ohio.
U.S. Rep. Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township has said an open drain allowed runoff from the piles to seep into the Great Lakes watershed during storms.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) in April issued a report stating that the piles themselves don't pose an immediate threat to human health. Then, in June, Michigan U.S. Rep. Gary Peters called for a further investigation after MDEQ acknowledged that dust from the mounds appeared "to be an issue during the loading of material onto freighters."
Brad Wurfel, MDEQ spokesperson, said concerns about pet coke "have been exaggerated," adding that the substance "is being managed like any other aggregate material."
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