Protesters block access to a Detroit dock. (credit: Ron Dewey/WWJ)

Protesters block access to a Detroit dock. (credit: Ron Dewey/WWJ)

DETROIT (WWJ) – Protesters crowded an area near the Ambassador Bridge in southwest Detroit, Monday morning, loudly voicing their concerns about those massive piles of petroleum coke that line the Detroit River.

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The group, the Detroit Coalition Against Tar Sands, is protesting the piles of the substance nicknamed “pet coke” — a byproduct of oil refining used in energy production

The piles have been built up over the past couple months with the pet coke being brought by trucks loaded with material from the Marathon Petroleum Refinery in southwest Detroit.

(credit: Bill Szumanski/WWJ)

(credit: Bill Szumanski/WWJ)

The group spent the morning blocking the entrance way to the dock at the port near West Jefferson Avenue and Rosa Parks.  For about three hour, two trucks waited to get through as protesters locked arm-in-arm to prevent it.

Police were the scene but took no action to remove the protesters and made no arrests.

The group says the piles are an eyesore and a health hazard.

Detroiter Andre Glen, who lives in a nearby apartment house, says he and his neighbors have been having respiratory problems due to thick black dust in the air.

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He said they recently pinpointed the pet coke as the cause.

“We bought a humidifier and then we turned around and bought a purifier at the same time, and that helped us breath at night,” Glen told WWJ’s Ron Dewey. “But we did have issues breathing at night and we’d had no clue as to why.”

A few dozen protesters carried signs baring slogans including, “Clean air is a human right,” and “Murder” with an image of Marathon’s logo painted alongside.

(credit: Ron Dewey/WWJ)

(credit: Ron Dewey/WWJ)

The pet coke, when mixed with coal, is used as a low-cost fuel.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in the spring issued a report stating that the piles themselves do not present an immediate health threat.

Then, last week, Michigan U.S. Rep. Gary Peters said the department acknowledged that dust from the mounds appears “to be an issue during the loading of material onto freighters.”

They’re looking into it.

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