Saint John Council has voted unanimously to send a letter asking the province to consider making the port-side American Iron and Metal (AIM) scrap recycling plant move its metal shredder.
The current two-year permit was signed in June of 2017, with the renewed permit to be approved by June 1 to keep the plant in operation.
The facility has been under an interim permit since December of 2018 when dozens of explosions caused by the plant’s shredder spurred the province to step in with a stop work order. After some discussion with the company it was allowed to reopen under a set of stringent conditions and environmental testing requirements.
The council is asking New Brunswick Environment and Local Government Minister Jeff Carr in a letter to consider moving the plant’s metal shredder “with Port operations limited to the handling of processed recycled metals for shipping.”
‘We have no jurisdiction’
Ward Three Councillor Donna Reardon said it’s time to see what council can do despite its lack of jurisdiction over the property.
“Now’s the time for us to at least voice our concerns and I guess see what happens,” Reardon said.
“I think it’s absolutely in the wrong location, but unfortunately it’s federal government property and federal government doesn’t have to abide by your city bylaws. So they do what they want, they are autonomous in your city,” she said.
Reardon said having the shredder moved to a new location would be the preferred result, but if it stays where it is the city wants to claim some jurisdiction over what happens on the site.
“Our biggest concern is that we have no jurisdiction, so we would like to have some. We’re asking the province for some sort of a mechanism, to have some sort of a voice in this because it impacts our citizens,” said Reardon.
“When it impacts your citizens it impacts your property values, when your property values are impacted your bottom line gets impacted, and how are we supposed to grow Saint John … how are we supposed to be successful when this stuff is happening in your neighborhood,” she added.
A recommendation is also included in the letter stating that the “enhanced environmental monitoring … including sound, air and water quality monitoring” that make up part of the interim approval to operate be audited by a third party before a new permanent permit is granted.
Improving relations with community members
It’s these environmental concerns that have been the biggest sticking points with those living in the area of the plant.
“The win-win situation of course is to move it off to an industrial park area and just have the loading operations at the port,” said Gary MacDonald, a member of the group Livable Saint John.
“If that becomes a reality, great. If not, at least the city is also on record making some recommendations regarding the health aspects of particularly the noise, and so on, and again, any kind of support like that from any level is tremendous,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald also sits on a new community liaison group set up by the company to bring together various stakeholders and improve relations with the community, which he sees as a “positive sign.”
“The company I think is now realizing it does have to be a responsible member of the community and work with the community overall and I sense that they are open here at the local level to move forward in that direction,” he said.