Judge orders Brayton Point in Somerset to halt scrap metal operations

SOMERSET – This week’s decision by a land court Boston judge ordering the closure of a scrap metal operation in Brayton Point within 14 days caused Nicole McDonald to breathe a sigh of relief.

“We are grateful to Judge [Robert B.] Foster for hearing us out and making his decision to protect us. And we are grateful that the laws in place to protect us are being enforced,” said McDonald, a Somerset resident and criminal defense and litigation lawyer from Fall River.

McDonald, who sits on Somerset Planning Council, was a defendant in the civil trial, which lasted five days.

Two other residents who live near Brayton Point – Nancy Thomas and Kathleen Souza – were also charged, as was the three-person Zoning of Somerset Appeal Board.

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Monday’s ruling upheld two cease-and-desist orders previously issued by the Zoning Appeal Board, which in 2020 twice ordered Brayton Point LLC to shut down the scrap metal operation operated by Eastern Metal Recycling , based in New Jersey.

A number of neighbors living near the site of the former coal-fired Brayton Point power station – which closed in 2017 after powering the power grid for 55 years – have complained about dust and toxic metal fumes blowing on their houses and streets.

They said the airborne dust is a direct result of industrial scrap being continuously unloaded from trucks in heaps and then loaded onto freighters bound for other countries, including Turkey.

“You can see it in your windows,” which McDonald says it has shut tightly since Eastern Metal Recycling began its scrap metal operations.

“I have two little dogs that I walk at night, and sometimes when you look at the streetlights it’s like snow blowing in front of your headlights,” McDonald said, adding that it sometimes tastes metallic to the back of his throat. and irritated eyes.

Some days, when the wind blows strong enough off the bay, she says, “it’s like coming from a sandstorm.”

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What’s going on at Brayton Point?

The 306-acre site at the end of Brayton Point Road that stretches to Mount Hope Bay was purchased for $8.5 million in December 2018 by Missouri-based Commercial Development Company Inc., or CDC for short.

Steven Collins, executive vice president of CDC Brayton Point LLC redevelopment, declined to comment on the land court decision.

Collins previously said 140 acres on the site were suitable for industrial development.

The only other tenant since the sale of the land of what is now called Brayton Point Commerce Center is Allied Salt LLC, a New Jersey company that stores Chilean antifreeze salt that it sells to municipalities.

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The section of land on the bay facing Fall River where the scrap metal was stored and unloaded is owned by the State of Massachusetts, according to records from the Bristol County Deeds Registry.

In 1959, the Commonwealth entered into a 99-year lease for the use of the land by the New England Power Co. to build a power station. This lease has since been transferred to subsequent owners, including Commercial Development Company.

McDonald, who describes the plot as 12.5 acres, said the state Department of Conservation and Recreation was acting as custodian. DCM did not immediately respond to a request for ownership details.

Winds change at Brayton Point

The news lately hasn’t been all bad for Brayton Point LLC.

Governor Charlie Baker, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and other elected officials visited the site three weeks ago to celebrate the sale of 47 acres to Prysmian Group. The Italian company will manufacture submarine power cables for the Commonwealth Wind and Park City Wind offshore wind projects.

A company representative said that day that the project represents a potential investment of $300 million. He also said that up to 250 well-paying jobs would be created.

Collins has previously said that CDC, from the time it bought Brayton Point with its deep water port, has been eager to be part of the offshore wind industry.

Complaints from neighbors lead to action

The 2020 cease and desist orders issued by Somerset Zoning Council came after the then town building inspector rejected a request by Souza and Thomas to enforce rules that would require that dust and fumes are strictly confined to Brayton Point premises.

They then appealed to the zoning board, which ordered a halt to scrap metal operations until the building inspector approved a new plan from Brayton Point LLC that would provide better industrial dust control.

Brayton Point LLC appealed this decision, but at the same time submitted a new plan to the building inspector, who in turn approved it.

Souza, Thomas, and McDonald appealed to the zoning board, which then rescinded the building inspector’s approval and renewed the original ZBA cease-and-desist order.

Swansea files its own complaints

The City of Swansea filed its own formal complaint against Brayton Point in January 2021, although the complaint did not relate to scrap.

Swansea Board of Selectmen Chairman Christopher Carreiro and Councilor Anthony Savastano each sent letters to Attorney General Maura Healey and the AG’s Environmental Protection Division alleging that the noise and dust from the ongoing demolition of the old power plant structures on the site created a “public nuisance”. ”

Carreiro’s letter said Swansea had engaged environmental services company GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc. to monitor dust and noise levels in the Gardners Neck Road area and that the company’s subsequent report ‘validates the presence of such nuisance’. .

Cautious optimism from Brayton Point neighbors

Foster said in his ruling that he visited the site and saw for himself that dust from Brayton Point was reaching the adjacent neighborhood.

McDonald said he visited his home addresses and those of Souza and Thomas.

Foster, in her decision, gives credit to Brayton Point LLC for trying to prevent the spread of dust by using water-based fog cannons; roads reserved for delivery trucks; improved weather monitoring; and the use of “pans instead of grappling hooks for loading ships”.

But it also notes that the company has not put in place any additional air quality monitoring “to ensure the breaches do not reoccur”.

Foster said scrap metal operations at the site can only resume with approval from the city’s zoning appeals board.

McDonald says she and her neighbors all want the same thing, which is “to live in our homes and be healthy.”

And do they think Brayton Point LLC will come up with an alternative set of operational standards that will pass the mark with the local ZBA?

“We’ll have to wait and see what the company does,” McDonald said.

Charles Winokoor can be reached at [email protected]. Support local journalism and subscribe to The Herald News today.

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