City puts pressure on scrap yard to end explosions

Navajo Metals is being monitored by the city for its continued problem with exploding gas and propane tanks at its recycling operation just steps from Deerfoot Trail in the city's southeast.

Navajo Metals recycling operation in city's southeast has been rattling windows and buildings for years

The Navajo Metals scrap yard — owned by Evraz, a multinational steel making and mining company — has nine conditions on its city business licence resulting from concerns over continued explosions. (Google Maps)

This story was originally published on Jan. 24. 

Loud traffic, noisy construction and barking dogs are expected annoyances in the heart of Calgary, but not explosions.

Navajo Metals, owned by multinational steel company Evraz, is being monitored by the city for its continued problem with exploding gas and propane tanks at its metal recycling operation just steps from Deerfoot Trail in the city's southeast.

It's something the president of the nearby Millican-Ogden Community Association says has been a problem since at least 1985, long before Evraz took over.

"It has been a very, very difficult thing to try to deal with and certainly a difficult thing to try to explain to the residents who experience it," said Rick Smith, who stresses the good work of the business and better co-operation from the company recently. 

The explosions rattle homes and businesses both day and night, although it's far from a daily occurrence. 

'A loud bang and the building shook'

Deborah Jacklin, who recently moved her business into the area adjacent to the Evraz yard, experienced her first incident two or three weeks ago but didn't know it was an explosion until she was told by CBC News. 

"We were just on the floor in our showroom and all of a sudden there was a loud bang and the building shook," said the owner of DK Beauty. 

"It was significant enough, like, all of our staff, we could all feel it. We actually thought someone had crashed, physically, a truck into our building because we have a loading dock at the back."

A few minutes later, fire trucks raced by and stopped at the scrap yard. 

"All of that said, we figured that the fire trucks went down there and obviously they would have it well in hand and if there was any concern that they probably would have told us," she said. 

When told this has been an issue for more than 30 years she responded, "oh, seriously?"

Business licence conditions

The city has been unable to stop the explosions at the business and has also been unable to catch any violations that it could prosecute. 

"So we put [business licence] conditions on in 2016 and we found that complaints still kept coming in from the community. So we went ahead with a charge of violating a condition on their licence and, unfortunately, the law department wouldn't proceed with it," said Kent Pallister, the chief licence inspector for the city. 

Navajo Metals, located just off Deerfoot Trail near the Calf Robe Bridge, is being monitored by the city for ongoing explosions. (Google Maps)

"So I think our evidence wasn't sufficient for a successful prosecution."

In total, there are nine conditions on the licence. 

The conditions aren't really new obligations for Evraz, they simply tie the business licence to rules the company must already obey. In essence, it gives the city one more tool to apply pressure. 

"If you start violating the law, the relevant jurisdiction might charge you, but we're also going to hold you accountable," said Pallister.

Continued infractions could lead to a suspension or cancellation of the licence, but the city hopes it can force a change in the company's behaviour before something that drastic happens.

"We do have other businesses in Calgary that can crush or shred scrap metal, and if they can operate fine, then this business should be able to operate fine, too," said Pallister.

Nighttime explosions

One condition says the company must abide by the Alberta Fire Code and the Safety Codes Act. Another says the company should "ensure that no activity involving the crushing or shredding of material that is likely to, or has been demonstrated to cause an explosion and/or a noise that disturbs, occurs after 6:00 PM."

That condition isn't being met, at least according to one resident of Lynnwood, located in Millican-Ogden.

Cari Williams-Tomei said she was woken up by an explosion on Jan. 13 around 11 p.m.

"It's like someone slams the front or back door, shakes the whole house," she said via Facebook. "It's not a small noise, that's for sure."

The area's councillor, Gian-Carlo Carra, said the city is investigating how serious and how severe the explosions are, adding city officials aren't convinced the company is doing all it can to prevent them. 

"Until we have enough evidence amassed that we can stand in a court of law and win the day, that's all that we have right now," he said. "And that's putting pressure on Evraz to be better and better corporate citizens."

No one from Navajo Metals or Evraz was available for comment prior to publication.