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Report on metal recycling facility fire in Saint John released

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A final report from the task force examining a massive fire at the American Iron and Metal (AIM) scrapyard in Saint John, N.B., was released Tuesday.

The fire broke out at the metal recycling facility on Sept. 14, coating Saint John in heavy smoke.

Justice Minister and Attorney General Ted Flemming presented the findings, repeating that the task force was meant to find answers for the people of Saint John and included independent fire and engineering experts.

They put together a “substantial” report with 12 findings. Flemming said it was the most “concentrated and intense” report he’s been a part of in his time in government.

Some of the findings included:

  • that many of the scrap metal piles were more than twice the size permitted.
  • the city’s water and fire resources were not sufficient to respond to such an enormous fire.
  • had the J.D. Irving Limited ship “Atlantic Osprey” not bene there, the fire could have taken over a week to put out.
  • the AIM site, the air and the water was contaminated and further testing is required.
  • AIM operations are a health and safety risk to the citizens of Saint John, and there’s a high likelihood of future fires on that site.

Flemming said the fire was sparked by rechargeable lithium ion batteries.

It took 22-million gallons of water to fight the fire, of which 19 million was sea water taken from the harbour, and 17 million gallons of that was pumped by the Osprey.

He said there was a “significant” impact on the environment, with contaminants being released in the air and water.

“It is important to note that these are findings and that they are not recommendations,” he said. “Currently, AIMS approval to operate remains suspended. That decision rests with operators… this is a fact-finding task force.”

“This I will know. That this isn’t going to happen again.”

But some say that promise can’t be made without the facility being shutdown, at least at its current location.

Flemming wouldn’t say when a decision on AIM’s future will be made.

“The people of Saint John have been anxiously waiting on pins and needles to find out whether this facility, where there’s been two deaths, multiple fires and consistent issues, whether this government will revoke its permit,” said N.B. Liberal Leader Susan Holt.

The final step of the task force is to deliver the report to the Port of Saint John and the government.

Flemming said it is those decision-makers who decide next steps. The report was also sent to AIM, Transport Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the City of Saint John.

No one at AIM responded to CTV Atlantic’s request for comment.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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