Detroit City Council puts pressure on Marathon after refinery taints area with foul odor

Southwest Detroit plant emitted smell this weekend

DETROIT – The smell was just unbearable this weekend.

A malfunction at the Marathon Refinery in Southwest Detroit has sparked new questions about the impact the refinery is having on the area and now it’s Detroit City Council that’s asking them.

“My biggest concern and disappointment was that there was not clear notification to folks. I found out from residents, which is great,” said City Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez. 

Council members were concerned after the foul odors plagued the area.

“What are we doing for the future because this is not the first time and unfortunately, it may not be the last time,” said City Councilman Scott Benson. 

They brought a slew of questions to a meeting Tuesday.

“My question is: Was there anything that was released that could have been a safety hazard in the breathing of the citizens?” said Council President Brenda Jones.

Detroit City Council members fired off a series of tough questions to Marathon officials and they were not holding any punches back. This comes after a foul odor started leaking from the Marathon Plant early Saturday afternoon. 

Tuesday, Marathon leaders with the Health Department, Detroit Fire Department and Homeland Security gave an update to Detroit City leaders.

“We believe that the odor was largely from mercaptans; it’s a substance that’s added to natural gas to give it that odor,” said Environment, Safety and Security Manager Honor Sheard with Marathon.

Sheard said the smell started around 12:45 p.m. Saturday. The company sent out a notification around 1:07 p.m.

“Once we start making repairs, one of our top priorities will be to determine how this incident happened.  We believe it was linked to the extremely cold temperatures from last week,” Sheard said.

But neighbor Al Bates said he needs more.

“Marathon really didn’t give any concrete answers or solutions to the problems that have been existing for such a long time,” Bates said.

Immediately after the meeting, several reporters tried to get some answers from Marathon but representatives of the company wouldn’t answer any questions.

MDEQ said it will be issuing a violation notice to Marathon for the odors. There could be fines, as well. 

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