Feb 18, 2019
On Sunday morning, February 3, hundreds of Detroit residents called local and state police about hazardous fumes in the air. It was like breathing fumes while filling a car at a gas station – and being forced to stand there and breathe it hour after hour.
A piece of equipment called a “flare” had malfunctioned at the huge Marathon Petroleum Oil refinery in southwest Detroit. A huge plume of gas fumes spread out over central and eastern Detroit and even into the northern suburb of Warren. There was an oily, greasy film in the air.
Marathon didn’t stop it. Hours went by. News stations broadcast that people living in the vicinity shouldn’t leave their homes if they didn’t have to. Some got in their cars and drove out of the area. Parents were afraid for their children. No one knew if it would get better – or worse.
It took Marathon two days to shut the flare down. Company officials said the smell was only a bad smelling additive that the flare let off “excess byproducts.” Byproducts from making gas and diesel! And they said that the air was perfectly safe!
Marathon Petroleum Oil is one of the largest industrial operations in the state. For years, people who live near the facility in Southwest Detroit have complained about pollutants and raised their concerns about their health problems. Researchers with the University of Michigan have labeled Zip code 48127, which includes the area around the refinery, the state’s most polluted. All of these are working class neighborhoods.
Several years ago, a public outcry forced Marathon to promise to eventually cease operating a flare. But operating the flare was exactly the source of the pollution this time around!
And while Marathon maintains it has reduced emissions, that’s no comfort to the people trying to breathe in Zip code 48217.
If Marathon thinks things are so safe, let their executives and big stockholders go live there and try to breathe.