'No need' to call 911 following Friday blast: American Iron & Metal

American Iron and Metal confirms its staff did not call 911 following an explosion Friday at the company's metal recycling facility on the Saint John waterfront.

The blast, shortly after 7 a.m. Friday, shook homes on both sides of the harbour.

The incident was described as a "significant explosion" in a statement later that day by the Port of Saint John. 

WorkSafe New Brunswick confirmed Monday it is investigating the incident. There were no injuries.

But American Iron & Metal (AIM) site manager Kevin Hughes told CBC News there was no reason to notify first responders of the incident.

He said the blast took place inside an enclosed chamber.

"The shredder itself is a self-contained chamber, so it's designed to withstand those explosions, so that's why we don't contact them at those points," said Hughes.

'Like a stick of dynamite going off'

Hughes said the company did notify New Brunswick's Department of Environment and Local Government shortly after the incident, as per the requirements of AIM's Approval to Operate certificate.

A spokesperson for the department says AIM reported the explosion at 8:15 a.m. Friday.

Gary MacDonald was watching the cruise ship Arcadia dock on the waterfront below his condominium when the blast occurred. The sound, he said, was "like a stick of dynamite going off," causing startled tourists on the ship's deck to jump.

"I think the environment department should have a long hard look at the stipulations laid out in the certificate." - Gary MacDonald, waterfront resident

MacDonald said it was different from other explosions he's heard originate from the AIM site across the harbour.

He said he's concerned about the impact blasts from the site could have on window seals in the Harbourfront Residences condo building where he lives.

He'd like to see some tightening of requirements in the company's Approval to Operate certificate.

"I think the environment department should have a long hard look at the stipulations laid out in the certificate of operation, and perhaps even hold open houses so residents can have some input as to what the concerns are," he said.

MacDonald said the requirements should include monitoring for noise and dust particulates on the central peninsula, a short distance across the water from the facility.

The company's Department of Environment Approval to Operate is scheduled for renewal on June 1, 2019.

City officials concerned

Saint John Mayor Don Darling said he's been advised the Port of Saint John, the scrap recycler's landlord, is reviewing the incident.

Julia Wright, CBC

He said he will also follow up on an offer from the company to meet with city officials.

He's particularly concerned about the presence of explosive materials at the west-side site.

"My understanding, and I'm trying to confirm this, is that we were assured that goods would be coming in — the raw material — dry. So in other words: No liquids, no propane. And clearly that's not the case," said Darling. "So I think that issue needs to be addressed."

Although the company did not call first responders following the blast, Saint John fire Chief Kevin Clifford said a member of the public did.

Matthew Bingley/CBC

Clifford said a call should have come from someone at the scrap metal recycler.

"There's no question when something like that happens at their facility and leaves that type of impact with our community they should be calling us and telling us," said Clifford.

Hughes said AIM is continuously improving its operations and would "be open" to doing that.

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