Detroit — After reports of “strong odors” in southeast Michigan on Sunday, Michigan State Police quickly identified the source as the Marathon oil refinery in southwest Detroit and the company identified the source of the problem and apologized for the odor.

Police began receiving reports of the odors around 4 a.m. and initiated an investigation into the source, which is ongoing at the Marathon site. 

Marathon Petroleum Corporation, owner of site since 1959, said in a statement that the source of the odor is a non-functioning flare at the refinery that needs to be repaired.

Flares, the statement explains, “are safety devices that allow (Marathon) to safely combust excess materials at the refinery.” The company is working to deactivate the flare “as quickly and safely as possible.”

Marathon says it is monitoring the air in affected areas. 

“Although there is an odor, we have not detected dangerous levels of any substances,” the company said, adding that it’s making that air-monitoring data available to regulatory agencies and emergency responders.

“We apologize to the community for the odor and the inconvenience,” Marathon said. The company says it is investigating the matter and will course-correct “so that this does not happen again.”

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Steve Considine, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said that winds are blowing from the west on Sunday, about five to 15 miles per hour, meaning that “any type of odor” would travel north and northeast of its source.

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality could not immediately be reached.


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