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Two hospitalized after vapor leak at Marathon refinery

Officials say there’s no health risk, but residents are wary

There’s many metal chimneys at an industrial facility with smoke coming out the tops. Shutterstock

A strange “vapor cloud” blowing along Schaefer Highway on September 12 had people confused and concerned.

At 1:38 p.m., soon after the cloud was spotted, Marathon Petroleum Co. informed the city of Detroit that there was an oil vapor leak at the refinery it operates in Southwest Detroit. About an hour later, the city of Detroit issues a statement saying the situation was “under control.”

Officials at Marathon and the city say there was no health risk posed by the leak, but two workers at the refinery were hospitalized and officials with the state’s Environment, Great Lakes and Energy department said they would investigate.

WXYZ Detroit reports that Michigan State and Melvindale police shut down nearby roads, and contract workers were waiting outside the refinery until the all-clear was given.

The public scare worried Southwest Detroit residents. At a news conference the day after the leak, neighborhood groups and environmental organizations demanded Marathon be held responsible.

This isn’t the first time Marathon has been accused of harming the health and environment of Southwest Detroit. In 2016, residents sued Marathon over the impacts of pollution. Earlier this year, Marathon apologized after a rotten odor emitted from its refinery which sickened residents and lasted for several days.

It also tried to get a variance from the city of Detroit so it wouldn’t have to enclose piles of pet coke, which had resulted in several cases of fugitive dust clouds.