Parkview residents say pollution is making their neighbourhood uninhabitable

Banging, clanging and the shrieking sounds chunks of metal make as they're smashed together have left Hamilton's Parkview neighbourhood so rattled residents are refusing to stay quiet.

Councillor is organizing a town hall to discuss noise and air quality concerns

Parkview resident Dave Kebick stands in from of AIM Recycling in Hamilton. People in the neighbourhood are raising concerns about noise and air pollution from the industries surrounding their community. (Dan Taekema/CBC News)

Banging, clanging and the shrieking sounds chunks of metal make as they're smashed together have left Hamilton's Parkview neighbourhood so rattled residents are refusing to stay quiet.

The racket shakes windows and drives people back into their homes, according to community members who say the cacophony, combined with concerns about dust and air pollution, has become too much to bear.

"We can't get a break. If we get one moment of peace another piece of industrial picks up and starts barraging us with noise," says Dave Kebick, whose lived in Parkview since he was a child.

"Our neighbourhood is not a neighbourhood anymore. It's been taken away from the residents."

In recent months people who live in the east-end corner of the city bordered by industrial sites, Nikola Tesla Boulevard and the Red Hill Valley parkway, have started to make some noise of their own — handing out petitions and holding protests at Leaside Park where residents hoist signs with messages like "LET US SLEEP" and "WE DON'T WANT TO MOVE."

Parkview residents have demonstrated outside AIM in recent months, calling for the company to stop polluting and protesting its plans to install a shredder. (Environment Hamilton)

Now they're hoping a town hall event organized by Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla might finally get them some answers, and some relief.

At the centre of the community's current fears is American Iron and Metal (AIM) Recycling, a scrap yard Kebic says has been growing steadily for years and is in the process of building a massive shredder he worries will make even more noise and pollution.

"As they grew … they got louder. It started with one crane ... then two cranes," he explained, indicating the piles of rusting metal and working cranes during a recent visit to the park. "I believe they're now up to nine or 12 cranes over there."

To underscore the reason for his worries, Kebick pointed to issues with an AIM shredder in New Brunswick, which has been plagued by complaints about noise and explosions.

Environment Hamilton has is also raising the alarm about pollution in the area.

Executive director Lynda Lukasik says her organization has reported problems and air quality concerns to the Ministry of Environment on several occasions and feels the city could play a role battling all the noise by putting up sound barriers and planting more trees.

Company says it complies with ministry standards

Leslie Greener, senior environmental advisor for AIM, says the company complies with the city's site plan approval process and and meets environmental standards set out by the Ministry of Environment (MOE).

Those same guidelines will have to be met when construction on the shredder, which will break down large chunks of mixed metal like car bodies to something the size of a human hand, is complete.

AIM is aware of the community concerns, but says its operations comply with city and provincial standards. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

The MOE  has set "air quality limits that are conservative and are there to protect both the health of people and the environment," added Greener.

"Our shredder is no more dusty or there are no additional emissions from it, than we are allowed by the ministry."

AIM is well aware of the community's complaints. Greener says it recently joined the Hamilton Industrial Environmental Association — a body made up of companies committed to reducing their environmental footprint and protecting the city's water, land and air.

People in Parkview say dust and air pollution are other problems they have to deal with, along with the noise from nearby industry and Nikola Tesla Boulevard. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

It has also been in "regular contact" with Parkview residents, she said, and has hired an expert in community engagement, who has helped host open houses to listen to the people who live around AIM and answer their questions.

The company's efforts have included setting up walls of shipping containers to try to cut back on noise and future plans include more noise barriers, including some closer to the shredder once its operational.

"I take this very seriously," said Greener. "It's part of my job to make sure we continue to address the concerns of the community."

Cracked walls and wearing earplugs to bed

But community members say they continue to feel unheard.

Elsie Briggs has called Parkview home since 1973 and says her nice, friendly neighbourhood made up of small, single-family homes has long been subjected to nearby industrial expansion without any input from residents.

In her early days she says it was the steelmakers who were a problem. Back then, Briggs worked as a teacher in the neighbourhood and said students would come in filthy from recess, covered in soot and greasy dust dropped on their playground.

AIM says it will add more noise barriers in the future once its shredder is up and operational. (Dan Taekema/CBC News)

But while Stelco and Dofasco worked with the community and solved some of the issues, she says, the same hasn't been true for some of the other industries that have cropped up.

"They moved in with a fury and they cause a lot of noise in the area,"  Briggs said. "People I've met with have had their walls crack, they can't sleep at night, they have to wear earplugs to try and sleep."

Kebick stresses the people in Parkview are not after anyone's job.

The residents realize people need to work and that the city has allowed these industries to set up shop. But he says some sort of compromise needs to be reached or the neighbourhood won't be livable anymore.

Merulla, whose ward includes the neighbourhood, says he's been fielding calls about air, noise and odour pollution in Parkview for years. The councillor says the difference is that a few decades ago the complaints were related to isolated events, but now they seem to be linked to the day-to-day operations of industry.

Ward 4 Coun. Sam Merulla says he's heard complaints about pollution around Parkview for years. He's planning a town hall to bring together all the parties involved and try to work toward some solutions. (Dan Taekema/CBC News)

Merulla says there's little the city can do. Environmental concerns are the jurisdiction of the province or, more specifically, the Ministry of Environment.

"We just don't have the resources and we don't have the authority to do what they need," he explained. "They need the law enforced."

That's why he's proposed a community meeting that would bring together residents, MPPs, ministry representatives and city staff to all talk about the issues and how they can be approached.

Merulla said he's planning to meeting with staff in the next few days and hopes to have a date for the town hall by the end of the week.

If and when that happens, Greener said AIM would "absolutely" be interested in taking part.

An empty play structure at Leaside Park offers a view of AIM and its operations across the road. (Dan Taekema/CBC News)