Saint John should sue port authority over American Iron and Metal, councillor says

Coun. Donna Reardon says it is time for the city to direct its frustration with American Iron and Metal toward the Saint John Port Authority.

Reardon said she is exploring whether the city can legally sue the port to force it to take action against the scrap metal recycling operation on the west side waterfront.

American Iron and Metal leases port land for its metal shredder and scrap stockpiles.

Although it is in the centre of the city, the location — on federal land — puts the business outside the municipality's authority.

It's been the subject of numerous complaints about dust, noise and explosions over the past several years.

Since June 2017, there have been 45 explosions, large and small, at the scrap yard, events the company maintains are "contained" and not a danger to the public or to workers.

Large piles of rust-coloured scrap metal awaiting shipment have altered the view for many living near the waterfront.

Reardon claims the operation is "destroying" two neighbourhoods on opposite sides of the harbour — the lower west side and central peninsula — both of which are within her ward.

"We have all the fallout from this industry," Reardon said. "It's impacting everyone, but it's outside our jurisdiction."

Mayor Don Darling said the city has requested the terms of the American Iron and Metal lease, but the port authority declined to release them.

Julia Wright, CBC

Darling said he and others were shocked and disappointed during a meeting in the city in November, when American Iron and Metal CEO Herb Black said his company had been given a discount as part of a new long-term lease renewal agreement with the port.

A communications spokesperson for AIM has not, so far, responded to a request for comment on the lease agreement.

The port authority also declined to discuss the terms of the lease.

"Leases are legal documents," said Paul Copeland, director of communications for the port. "Our leases are subject to the same legal contracts and obligations as any other entity."

Copeland also said the port is unaware of any plans for a lawsuit and has no comment on the matter.

Reardon said she'll talk to the city's legal department to see if the city has grounds for a suit.

She's not worried a lawsuit could signal industry is not welcome in the city.

"What message are we sending? We want you to be a responsible, co-operative industry that works in a symbiotic relationship with us. If that's the wrong message, I'm sending it. For sure."