A recent US EPA investigation in Detroit has resulted in more questions than answers.

Late last year, Detroit resident Adrienne Crawford was shocked by an intense chemical smell permeating through her home on Pleasant Street. Awoken in the middle of the night, choking on fumes, Crawford took an air sample in November 2010. Her sample revealed a toxic cocktail of 20 chemicals at 1,000 times above the safe limit! Chemicals detected included cancer causing benzene, toluene and hydrogen sulfide.
Marathon’s Detroit Refinery tank celebrates the Pistons photo: Marathon.com

Crawford’s heartfelt appeal on TV news was seen by Marathon Oil. Marathon employees came out to Crawford’s home in early January to investigate the situation. Marathon brought an entourage with industrial air monitors and plumbers. Marathon inspectors found no chemicals in the air.

Days later, US EPA launched an investigation prompted by Crawford’s toxic air sample. The US EPA discovered that Marathon Oil shares a sewer line with the City of Detroit (read: Detroit residents) resulting in Marathon’s industrial waste water mingling with municipal waste. Marathon’s waste water can be filled with chemicals like benzene and hydrogen sulfide, chemicals both associated with petroleum production.

US EPA developed a flyer alerting residents of the possible chemical exposure that could be the result of broken sewer traps in basements. US EPA is also testing the air in 61 homes north and south of Pleasant Street along the sewer line as well as the outside air. It is unclear who is actually taking the samples-the Agency or Marathon Oil consultants.

Marathon, the large industrial polluter that registers thousands of pounds of these toxic chemicals, is responsible for fixing the broken sewer traps and for and possibly for air monitoring.  After digging up Crawford’s basement and providing a seal, Marathon has deemed her home “safe”.

Marathon even provided chemically impacted  residents with an informational brochure about indoor chemical exposures. This flyer details information about chemical exposures from cosmetic products, carpets and lawn mowers.

A few years ago, Saturday Night Live started a skit called “Really?!? With Seth and Amy”. The two cast members would call out the ridiculousness in recent news head lines. Amy & Seth photo: NBC.com
We would like to end this blog entry with a nod to this Saturday Night Live skit.

Really, Marathon, you sent out a flyer telling people that the chemical exposure is coming from a lawn mower? Really? How many lawn mowers would it take to compare to the amount of gasoline that is being stored and produced at your oil refinery?

Really, Marathon, you don’t have enough money to have your own sewer line to the waste water treatment plant? Really? Because facilities your size usually have their own waster water treatment plant on site and do not share with their residential neighbors.

Really, US EPA, you are letting Marathon, the polluter, do the air monitoring and fix sewer traps? Did you ever think of maybe consulting with a third party that the residents trust? You are allowing a woman to reside in a home that has shown serious benzene exposure because Marathon, the polluter, said it was ok. Really?!?

The residents of Detroit deserve better. Not only are they breathing bad air, they are also getting a lot of hot air from the agencies that are supposed to be protecting them.