• Adventures in Environmental Disaster: Motor City Edition.

    For the past few months, Koch Carbon, an affiliate of Koch Industries, stored tons of petroleum coke on a lot near the Detroit-Windsor Ambassador Bridge. This stuff happens to be a byproduct of the ongoing tar sands oil operations in Alberta, Canada. When it's not sitting idle on some industrial lot, the "pet coke" is usually shipped overseas as a cheap but nastier alternative to coal.

    Normally, this stuff is hosed down with an epoxy to keep it from blowing everywhere. The following is what happens when the epoxy stops working.

    After seeing portions of the city devolve into wastelands and crumble to bits, the average Detroiter probably thinks this is the shriveled cherry on top of a heaping shit sundae. Understandably, Detroit and Windsor residents are a bit upset over their respective cities being treated like dumps.

    To top it all off, all of that pet coke was being stored without a permit:

    After months of operating without one, the company responsible for Detroit’s petroleum coke piles went hunting for one Tuesday.

    Detroit Bulk Storage representatives faced a city panel that will decide the issue. At times, panel members were highly skeptical of the company’s actions.

    A company representative said they didn’t know they needed a permit to openly store pet coke along the Detroit River.

    It’s stopped taking additional shipments of the substance — a byproduct of refining Canadian tar sands oil — until it gets one.

    “Our understanding was that once we were moving toward compliance, we could continue our operations,” said Detroit Bulk Storage lawyer Terri Whitehead.

    A Detroit Bulk Storage representative also insists the company is using “best practices” when it comes to handling the openly-stored piles safely.