Citizens group, Saint John call for 24hr mandatory shutdown after metal shredder blast

Click to play video: 'More pressure to include mandatory 24 hr shutdown following blasts at SJ metal shredding plant' More pressure to include mandatory 24 hr shutdown following blasts at SJ metal shredding plant
A petition has been launched in connection with the controversial AIM metal recycling in Saint John. Andrew Cromwell reports – Jan 15, 2021

A citizens group has joined the City of Saint John in upping the pressure against the province to further clamp down on the American Iron and Metal operation on the city’s west side waterfront.

Over the past number of months, explosions and even a fire at the plant have frayed the nerves of many. The city has written the province to complain, with the province saying it takes the situation seriously.

Ironically, that response letter came before council Monday, Jan. 11 — just three days after the latest blast.

Read more: AIM plant in Saint John receives amended work order to operate until at least June 8

In a written statement from the Department of Environment and Local Government, spokesperson Jean Bertin outlined the protocols in place when an explosion occurs.

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Bertin said, “the timing of a shutdown can vary depending on the time it takes for completion of each step. There have been occasions where shutdown has exceeded 24 hours while the Department awaits additional information for review, however, typically the downtime is shorter.”

Now, “Liveable Saint John” is gathering names on a petition backing the city’s call for a mandatory 24-hour shutdown following explosions of a certain magnitude. It already has about 400 of the 500 names it was looking for.

“Unfortunately the way that they’re regulated, they (AIM) are, for the most part … in compliance,” said spokesperson Raven Blue. “The regulations that are in effect basically allow them to continue having explosions.”

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Blue says a lot of the blame sits at the feet of the provincial government.

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“They’ve really been enabling this to go on for far far too long,” he said. “Several different governments, several changes in governments have taken place and they’ve all just sort of allowed this to continue.”

City councillor David Hickey says the municipal government has no authority over the matter, but still thinks a solution is there if AIM lives up to its end of the deal.

“From my understanding of things, if their internal monitoring was increased to make sure that the scrap metal that’s being shredded or the metal that’s being shredded didn’t contain whatever it is that causes those explosions, then we would be able to avoid it,” Hickey said.

READ MORE: Sheet metal workers return to negotiations with contractor’s association

But Hickey still isn’t sure of the path forward.

“We’ve got folks like Herb Black who’s the CEO of AIM who has been in Saint John before and come to council and called us all idiots,” said Hickey. “That’s just the non-constructive measures that make it really really frustrating.”

At the end of the day it may be time that tells the tale here — in this case, the end of May when the company’s license to operate is up for renewal before the province.”

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AIM did not respond to a request for comment by the time this story was published.

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