New Brunswick

Recycler gave no hint of blasts shaking the neighbours when it filed environment report

Environmental impact documents filed by American Iron and Metal eight years ago claim a planned expansion of the operation on Saint John’s west side waterfront would have little effect on its neighbours.

Document promised 'state of the art' plant would deal with noise, dust, particle emissions

When American Iron and Metal filed for approval to expand its west Saint John scrap recycling operation, the company's consultants said it would have little impact on its neighbours. (CBC)

Environmental impact documents filed by American Iron and Metal eight years ago claimed a planned expansion of the operation on Saint John's west side waterfront would have little effect on its neighbours.

The documents were filed as part of the approval process for the 2011 expansion of the scrap-metal recycling operation that included construction of a $30 million metal shredder.

CBC News recently reported there had been 36 explosions at the AIM site over a 16-month period ending Sept. 17.

Numerous residents on Albert Street, Blue Rock Court and other nearby neighbourhoods have complained about operating-noise levels at the scrap recycler.

CBC obtained the report from the environmental impact application, prepared by Conestoga-Rovers & Associates, from the New Brunswick Department of Environment and Local government.

"The proposed shredder is going to be a state of the art facility built around strict environmental policies with consideration given to key aspects such [as] noise level, dust, particle emissions, general infrastructure, etc," says the project overview.

"It is acknowledged that older shredder facilities often have a negative connotation, but the proposed installation for the Saint John Port will replicate AIM's state of the art facilities already in operation throughout Canada. These facilities are designed to minimize the impacts that the operation may have on the environment and neighbouring developments."

Blasts not mentioned

The document makes no mention of the potential for explosions and minimizes the impact of noise on residents living in the city's lower west side.

At the time of the 2010 study, those residents would already have been dealing with noise from scrap-metal gathering and shipping at the site.

The report describes the maximum noise increase expected for Albert Street as "medium" and for the Blue Rock area as "non-significant." 

Raven Blue of Livable Saint John says the province should be testing the air in neighbourhoods around the American Iron and Metal site.

American Iron and Metal did not respond to a request for comment Thursday on the question of noise monitoring.

"The expansion made a major impact on the neighbourhoods on both sides of the harbour," said Raven Blue, a central peninsula resident active in the group Livable Saint John.

Blue is particularly concerned about airborne emissions from the site, which he describes as the source of a metallic taste. AIM's environmental impact study noted background air contaminant levels in Saint John included sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, volatile organic carbon and ground level ozone before the scrap metal recycler's arrival.

"Given that the proposed undertaking is not expected to significantly contribute to any of these parameters, a discussion of the background levels was not included as part of this submission," the report says. 

Blue takes exception to that finding.

'Is the air safe'

He said there's too much anecdotal evidence of the metal taste from neighbours in Saint John and in other Canadian communities where scrap metal recycling operations are located.

Blue said the Department of Environment and Local Government should start monitoring for specific contaminant levels.

"We really just need to be able to answer the very basic question: Is the air safe?" he said.

"This is a known issue, but in New Brunswick our Department of Environment doesn't do compositional testing, they don't do testing in residential areas to determine what is in the air, or what's in the dust in the air."

The Department of Environment did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.