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Canada Mayor of Saint John says people ‘gravely concerned’ about frequency of explosions at recycling site

The mayor of Saint John, N.B., says a large explosion at the city’s American Iron & Metal recycling facility rattled the harbourfront Saturday morning.

Don Darling said the blast shook nearby houses, adding that he received messages from residents who reported feeling the explosion from kilometres away.

He said Saint John residents are concerned with the frequency of explosions from the site, estimating that there have been about 40 in the past year or so.

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“This is an ongoing issue that we’ve been faced with,” he said. “We’re dealing with a situation that’s very difficult, that’s impacting the city — more importantly, its citizens, their quality of life — and people are growing gravely concerned.”

The Saint John Emergency Measures Organization said in a Facebook post that the city’s fire department was notified of “a loud, contained explosion that occurred in their shredder around 11:20 a.m.” and that an emergency response from the city was not required.

But Darling said he’s “fed up” with the loud blasts and is actively looking for solutions to the issue.

The tricky part, he said, is that the facility isn’t the city’s jurisdiction, since it is regulated by the provincial government and the federally run Port Saint John.

“We’ve been working with Port Saint John and the provincial government to find solutions, and that can be a range of solutions, from the facility moving out, to its operating conditions being adjusted appropriately for citizens’ quality of life,” said Darling.

“Dust, noise, contaminants going into the water, explosions: these are all things that no mayor wants to talk about happening in his city.”

AIM could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.

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In a written statement to The Canadian Press, Port Saint John spokeswoman Paula Copeland said the company notified emergency officials and provincial authorities that a controlled explosion had occurred, and the port is working with the city on their “shared concerns” about the explosions.

She said these concerns have been brought forward to the province’s department of environment, which holds the company’s permit to operate, and said the department has assured them that they take them seriously.

“American Iron & Metal continue to advise authorities that these are controlled explosions, inside a building structured to withstand them,” added Copeland.

“However, the explosions are of concern to us due to the operation being located near an urban core and residences. We continue to work with the city and province to address our shared concerns.”

Darling said the issue needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

“We’re a city that needs to grow, we’re a city that’s trying to attract people, and when events like this happen it’s completely counterproductive to what we’re actually trying to achieve,” said Darling.

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“People are messaging me that they’ve had enough and they’re fearing for their safety, and I think it’s very reasonable that they make those comments, and it’s incumbent on us to find solutions.”

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