DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Michigan U.S. Rep. Gary Peters has taken to the House floor to criticize the storage of large piles of an oil-refining byproduct known as petroleum coke along the Detroit River.

The metro Detroit Democrat failed to win approval for an amendment to legislation on the Keystone Pipeline requiring an investigation of the storage.

He said Wednesday that Congress needs to act to protect “families and natural resources like the Great Lakes from the threat of contamination,” by the substance, known as “pet coke” for short.

The petroleum coke mounds are a byproduct of oil refining used in energy production. The material has been brought by trucks from the nearby Marathon Petroleum Co. refinery and stored at a site off Jefferson Avenue in southwest Detroit, where it’s loaded onto freighters.

The mounds began drawing more attention starting earlier this year. Area residents, the Canadian government and U.S. lawmakers are among those concerned about potential pollution and health effects.

Peters and fellow U.S. Rep. John Conyers have asked the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to investigate whether Detroit Bulk Storage complies with state regulations. The department has said it doesn’t see an immediate threat to the environment or to human health.

MORE: Southwest Detroiters Demand Answers About Petroleum Waste

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