'Enough is enough': People living near Marathon Refinery want out

Residents complain about pollution from Marathon

Residents living near Marathon say they have experienced issues with the oil refinery for years.
Residents living near Marathon say they have experienced issues with the oil refinery for years.

DETROIT – The Marathon oil refinery in southwest Detroit has stated that the foul smell Sunday came from a malfunctioning flare at the facility. 

The company believes the smell is Mercaptan, which is a foul smelling chemical added to natural gas to make it more easily detectable. 

The flare has been deactivated. Repairs are expected to take place soon. Meanwhile, folks living near the refinery say this is just one of the many issued they have had with Marathon over the years.  

"We smell this all the time," said one frustrated local resident. 

Neighbors in southwest Detroit who live next to the Marathon plant are frustrated. The plant is at the the center of an investigation. 

On Sunday morning WDIV-TV received several calls about a strong odor released from the plant.  

“Gas. Just gas. Just a gas smell,” said one neighbor. 

On Monday nearby residents held a protest speaking out against Marathon.  

“We have a right to know what is going on with the air that we breathe,” said Michelle Martinez with the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition. 

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality released this statement:

"The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality continues to coordinate with EPA and the City of Detroit on air monitoring and response activities related to the malfunction of the coker flare gas system and resulting odors from the Marathon refinery in Detroit.

DEQ, City of Detroit, and EPA staff met with Marathon personnel at the refinery today and were briefed on steps taken to reduce and reroute gas normally combusted by the flare system in an effort to reduce the rotten egg odors being emitted from the refinery.  Marathon also briefed DEQ on plans to safely shut-down the refinery in the coming days to make repairs to the coker flare gas system. 
The source of the odors created by the flare gas system are suspected to be hydrogen sulfide and mercaptan compounds. Both of these compounds have extremely low odor thresholds meaning they can be smelled even at very low levels.

Apart from the odor, neither EPA’s or Marathon’s air quality sampling have detected any exceedances of health thresholds.  DEQ’s Air Quality Division is reviewing monitoring data from DEQ’s own ambient air monitoring stations in the area in addition to reviewing the Marathon data. 

Meanwhile, neighbors and local law makers want something more to be done, “You all smelled it. I got the calls. People were scared. They were really scared yesterday,” said Representative Rashida Tlaib with the 13th District." 

Marathon released this statement:

"Marathon Petroleum has implemented processes at its Detroit refinery to stop a release from a flare that is not functioning properly. These processes have significantly reduced the amount of material flowing to the flare since this morning.

In order to conduct repairs to the flare, we are also removing the contents of various vessels connected to the flare. We are conducting this work as safely and as quickly as possible, and we anticipate completion by the end of the day, Feb. 4.

Although there has been an odor from the release, our ongoing air monitoring has not detected dangerous levels of any substances. We believe the odor is largely from mercaptan, a substance added to natural gas to give it a detectable smell. We will continue to conduct air monitoring on a constant basis in nearby communities as a precaution, and are making our air-monitoring data available to regulatory and emergency response agencies.

We apologize for the inconvenience to the community, and we are conducting a thorough investigation to determine what caused this release. Once determined, will implement the necessary corrective actions so that this does not happen again." 


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