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Smoke could still be seen coming from a smouldering pile of crushed cars at AIM Recycling in Saint John on the morning of Sept. 15, 2023. Image: Brad Perry

Joint task force will investigate AIM Recycling fire: premier

By Brad Perry Sep 18, 2023 | 8:40 PM

A joint task force will be formed to investigate last week’s industrial fire at American Iron and Metal (AIM) in Saint John.

Premier Blaine Higgs and Port Saint John CEO Craig Bell Estabrooks announced the task force in a joint statement on Monday evening.

Members of the task force will investigate the fire and “examine all aspects of the situation,” said the statement.

“The Province of New Brunswick remains committed to ensuring that a full and thorough investigation will take place,” said Higgs.

Cheryl Hansen, clerk of the Executive Council, will lead the government side of the task force given that there are multiple departments and arms of government involved.

News of the task force came hours after Saint John’s mayor called for a “full and independent audit” of AIM Recycling’s compliance with their provincial approval to operate.

“AIM is a black eye on our community, and we cannot accept anything less than swift and strong action from those who control its ability to operate.” Mayor Donna Reardon said in a statement on Monday morning.

“The land on which AIM operates is not city land, nor do we have any jurisdiction over regulating AIM operations, yet our residents and businesses are the ones suffering the consequences – the full severity of which we may only learn in months and years to come.”

Port Saint John has restricted activities at the terminal where the fire occurred until the investigation is complete. Only emergency operations “directly related to stabilizing the site” are permitted, said the statement.

Officials at the port are also investigating AIM Recycling’s compliance with the terms and conditions of their lease.

“First and foremost, community safety is paramount to us, as well as being a good neighbour to the people of Saint John,” said Bell Estabrooks.

“Since signing the lease with the operator of this site in 2011, many things have changed. Port Saint John never envisioned the series of explosions, fires, accidents and tragic deaths that have occurred.”

Meanwhile, Higgs said the company’s approval to operate remains suspended until a full investigation and review is complete.