(AP) — Some residents of a southwest Detroit neighborhood that's near an expanded Marathon oil refinery say they're stuck after not being included in a home buyout program. Marathon Petroleum Corp. completed a $2.2 billion expansion of its facility two years ago. Marathon officials earlier created a home buyout program in Oakwood Heights that allowed some residents to sell their homes. The owners of 266 of 294 properties participated.
But only roughly 10 owners in the Boynton neighborhood, to the southeast of the refinery, were offered buyouts, The Detroit News reported (http://bit.ly/1wb3HVH ) reported. "No one will buy this house now — it's only worth about $15,000 and it's in good shape," said Emma Lockridge, 61, whose family has lived in her home since the 1950s. "I'm still trying to make Marathon buy it because they should." Marathon said it has no plans to offer additional buyouts, and notes it didn't offer a buyout in Boynton because the area already qualifies for federal assistance under a program that targets communities hit by abandonment and foreclosures.
Marathon "offered the buyout program to Oakwood Heights residents because the ... expansion resulted in the refinery's operational footprint moving closer to the neighborhood," Marathon spokesman Jamal Kheiry told the newspaper in an email. "Also, the neighborhood was essentially a residential island, surrounded by industry and the Rouge River, with little or no buffer between them." For homeowners in Oakwood Heights, which was bypassed for federal funding, Marathon's buyout plan included a minimum purchase price of $50,000, an expense allowance totaling $5,000, $500 for legal counseling and $1,500 in assistance for a new mortgage.
Both neighborhoods have been in decline, dealing with abandoned homes, increased crime and the odor, noise and dust that come with living near a refinery. Interstate 75 is nearby, along with a wastewater treatment and railroad tracks. Boynton residents said things have gotten worse since Marathon's expansion. "That smell and everything (comes) right in my front door," said Jacqueline Smith, 69. "It's so devastating, I can't breathe. I get dizzy."
Marathon's permits have allowed the facility to emit more material into the air, said Jorge Acevedo, a senior environmental engineer with the state Department of Environmental Quality. The increases, however, are all within the levels permitted under the federal Clean Air Act.