'Significant' explosion at AIM rattles windows, nerves in Saint John

·2 min read
Saint John resident Gary MacDonald posted this photo on Twitter after hearing an explosion at the American Iron and Metal scrap metal recycling facility Wednesday night. (Submitted by Gary MacDonald/Twitter)

A dinner-hour explosion at the American Iron and Metal (AIM) industrial metal processing plant rattled windows and shook condominiums across the Saint John harbour Wednesday evening.

Residents immediately took to social media to express concern and anger, noting the explosion was "one of the most significant in some time."

Mayor Don Darling also spoke out on social media, after seeing a photo of the scene posted by Saint John resident Gary MacDonald.

"Enough is enough. This is not about being anti industry or about being anti port," Darling said on Twitter. "In my opinion, this facility is not following its approval to operate and it's impacting people's lives. Time for action is now and explosion must not be normalized."

The plant, which recycles scrap metal, has been the centre of controversy in recent years due to an ongoing series of explosions that have shaken buildings and upset residents in the neighbourhood.

The company said at the time that the explosions were caused by propane and gasoline tanks in crushed vehicles going through the shredder.

The provincial environment ministry intervened and restrictions were placed on the plant's operations, including a condition that explosions beyond a 109-decibel level would force the company to halt operations and await an inspection by fire officials.

In September of this year, after several months without incident, the plant roared back into the spotlight with a large fire and a series of explosions.

"We've seen a lot of events related to this operation, but last night was quite spectacular," Bob McVicar, whose home is directly across the harbour from the west side scrap metal operation, told CBC News at the time.

There were no injuries in that incident.

In an email Wednesday night, a spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change Minister Gary Crossman told CBC News that the ministry is following up on the incident.

"We are aware of the explosion and the department is looking into it," said Mary-Anne Hurley-Corbin, director of communications for the ministry.

CBC also called company owner Herb Black but he could not be reached through his office.