AIM explosion 'no concern for public safety,' environment minister says

·2 min read

A Wednesday evening explosion at the American Iron and Metal (AIM) industrial metal processing plant in Saint John did not exceed allowable decibel levels, the province's minister of environment says.

The dinner-hour blast rattled windows and shook condominiums across the Saint John harbour from the facility, and residents immediately took to social media to express concern and anger.

Mayor Don Darling also spoke out on social media after seeing a photo of the scene posted by Saint John resident Gary MacDonald, saying "explosion must not be normalized."

"Enough is enough. This is not about being anti industry or about being anti port," Darling said on Twitter. "In my opinion, this facility is not following its approval to operate and it's impacting people's lives."

On Thursday, Gary Crossman, the minister for the environment and climate change, said that the ministry had looked into the incident and determined there was no concern for public safety.

In an email, Crossman said AIM has a short-term approval to operate, which is being "closely" monitored and includes a condition that it must "cease operations when a sound level reading above 104 decibels occurs at the shredder."

The explosion Wednesday evening was below 104 decibels, Crossman said, but he noted that "certain weather conditions can result in the sounds of the operation, including explosions, seeming louder than they are."

"The company's equipment is designed to safely handle these types of explosions so there was no concern for public safety," Crossman said. "The occurrence of this type of event is understandably unsettling to residents and our team will continue to review the conditions of AIM's approval, including the implementation of a noise action plan."

The plant, which recycles scrap metal, has been the centre of controversy in recent years due to an ongoing series of explosions that have upset residents in the neighbourhood.

The company has said that the explosions are caused by propane and gasoline tanks in crushed vehicles going through the shredder.

AIM owner and president Herb Black could not be reached for comment about Wednesday's explosion, but at a public meeting in Saint John in October 2019, he said the company had done a lot to reduce dust and noise levels and that noise is a part of any business.