American Iron and Metal challenges fire marshal’s safety deadlines as ‘unreasonable’

January 4, 2024

Safety compliance orders challenged in court

American Iron and Metal (AIM), a scrap metal operation, is contesting the compliance orders issued by the fire marshal in New Brunswick.

The orders, following inspections in December 2023, were directed at three AIM sites in Moncton, Fredericton, and East Saint John.

These mandates included repairing broken fences and reducing scrap pile sizes.

Initially set for December 21, the deadlines were extended to January 11 for the Moncton site and January 13 for the other locations​​.

“Impossible” deadlines, says AIM executive

Michael Cormier, AIM’s vice-president of eastern regions, in court documents, described the fire marshal’s deadlines as “impossible,” labelling them an “unreasonable requirement.”

This situation arose following the revocation of AIM’s operating license at its Saint John port facility by Public Safety Minister Kris Austin, due to the company’s failure to address issues highlighted in a report on a significant fire at the scrapyard in September 2023​​.

Cascading effects and logistical challenges

The closure of the Saint John port facility has led to increased scrap accumulation at other AIM sites, only exacerbating the company’s compliance challenges.

Cormier mentioned efforts like securing additional rail cars to mitigate the situation, but acknowledged the difficulties in meeting the tight deadlines​​.

Residents raise concerns over safety and compliance

Local residents, like Michel Durepos living near the Moncton site, have expressed concerns over the towering scrap piles, which seemingly exceed the six-foot limit set by the Fire Code of Canada.

Durepos and others have called for relocating the site due to safety, noise, and odour issues.

Their worries are compounded by the company’s apparent inability to meet compliance guidelines swiftly​​​​.

Public interest and operational planning questioned

Questions have been raised about the public interest in allowing AIM extended periods to operate non-compliantly.

Local resident David LeBlanc criticized the extended deadlines, pointing out the risks to the community due to AIM’s planning shortcomings​​.

Local authorities demand swift action

Saint John Mayor Donna Reardon has been vocal about the need for immediate adoption of the province’s safety measures at the East Saint John AIM site.

Reardon emphasized the non-negotiable nature of these rules, irrespective of the company involved, asserting a firm stance against non-compliance​​.

Legal proceedings and official silence

As the matter progresses legally, AIM’s lawyer Romain Veil declined to comment.

Similarly, a representative from the Department of Justice and Public Safety refrained from further statements, citing the ongoing court proceedings.

The appeal against the orders is scheduled in court in Moncton​​​​.

FSJA Comment

The dispute between American Iron and Metal (AIM) and New Brunswick’s fire marshal highlights the often complex balance between industrial operations, safety regulations, and community interests.

AIM’s challenge to the deadlines underscores the difficulties businesses sometimes face in rapidly adapting to regulatory changes, especially when operational and logistical constraints are considered.

However, the community’s concerns about safety and compliance cannot be overlooked.

This situation also brings to the fore the role of local governance in enforcing safety standards and the legal complexities surrounding such enforcement.

The outcome of this legal battle will likely have implications for the industry’s regulatory landscape and may prompt a reevaluation of the ways in which safety standards are enforced and compliance deadlines are set.

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