New Brunswick Public Safety Minister Kris Austin has revoked the salvage dealer’s licence of the American Iron and Metal (AIM) facility in Saint John, N.B., because he says the company has not “adequately addressed” concerns raised in a report on a massive fire at the scrapyard in September.
The blaze broke out in the early hours of Sept. 14 amid a pile of crushed cars and prompted a city-wide air quality warning.
Dr. Rita Gad, the acting medical officer of health for the region, said the plume and smoke was likely filled with chemicals and contaminants. Later in the day, the City of Saint John and New Brunswick Public Health issued a shelter-in-place advisory for all of Saint John.
It took nearly three days to extinguish the fire.
A task force that investigated the fire and response released a 38-page report on Dec. 5 that said the sprawling site on the harbour is at significant risk of a future “catastrophic” blaze.
Garden safety concerns after AIM Saint John facility fire
The report said the central location of the plant, which is close to a residential neighbourhood, is inappropriate given its known hazards. As well, it found the city is ill-equipped to manage potential future fires at the site, noting that firefighters did not have enough water when battling the September blaze.
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Austin wrote to AIM on Dec. 8 to offer the company the opportunity to respond to the findings, and the company responded on Dec. 22.
However, Austin said Friday he had decided to revoke AIM’s licence after “weighing this matter with care.”
In a second letter, which was released publicly, Austin told the company that while AIM had identified certain measures it plans to implement, it does not “substantively address the numerous community health, safety and environmental risks and impacts” arising from its operations.
“Among the proposed steps set out in the AIM Response is the intention to develop a plan to comply with the National Fire Code, when such compliance should have always occurred, and the intended training by consultants of AIM personnel to operate a new water truck, with no evidence such steps will create the capacity to deal with a significant fire at this site in the future,” he wrote.
Austin further told the company that their response “attempts to minimize future risks and hazards, contests the findings of the Task Force and Investigation Reports, and asserts that AIM’s operations at this site are no worse than other industrial operations elsewhere.”
Under the Salvage Dealers Licensing Act, the minister’s decision is final and cannot be appealed but it is subject to judicial review. AIM has 90 days to apply for a judicial review.
Global News has reached out to AIM for further comment.
— with files from The Canadian Press
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