NEWPORT, Ky. – Other charges are pending against a scrap metal company in Newport.
According to Campbell County District Attorney Steve Franzen, two additional charges are being filed against River Metals Recycling for violating the city’s sound vibration code. Four counts were filed against the company for the same offense in December 2021.
The charges stem from “explosions” or combustion events that occur at the facility. Events can occur when a shredded item, such as a car, contains combustible materials such as gasoline.
Neighbors have long complained that the blasts are shaking their homes and polluting the air.
“River Metals Recycling has not gone through the very first step in the process of removing flammable materials before they enter their crusher,” said Annette Kitchen, who lives in the Clifton neighborhood of Newport. “This then creates a combustion event which then impacts the homes of the residents causing the house to shake, the ground shaking, objects falling from the walls, we have noise, we have a smell, and then an interesting cloud of color cascading over the city of Newport.”
The company, located along the Licking River, dismantles, demolishes, grinds and recycles metal objects.
“You could sleep, you could have guests (and an explosion occurs). It’s very embarrassing, to be honest,” Kitchen said. “You don’t have the opportunity to enjoy your home like other residents do. The physical and material damage speaks for itself. The human effect, anxiety, stress, lack of concentration are of concern .”
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Lawyers met on Monday for a preliminary hearing into the case. However, this hearing continued until May 26 in order to consolidate the new charges.
According to the initial complaint, violations took place on January 22, February 18, March 15 and December 15, 2021.
Data obtained by WCPO shows that combustion events again violated city code on January 4, January 20, twice on March 10 and March 19, 2022. It is unclear on what dates the new charges will originate. .
In total, the city has confirmed that at least 10 combustion events have occurred so far in 2022. In 2021, the number topped 50.
In a statement, Neal Courladot, regional manager of River Metals Recycling, said the company “will vigorously defend itself against all such claims.”
“Being a good corporate citizen and responsible neighbor has been essential to the way River Metals Recycling has done business in Newport for decades,” Courladot said. “We continue to share the commitment of the Mayor and the rest of our city’s leadership, on behalf of its residents, to ensure that Newport remains a great place to live and work.
Courladot said a noise wall installed in September 2021 at a cost of $300,000 has “been effective in significantly reducing noise from infrequent combustion events at our Newport facility.”
The kitchen disagrees.
“That design completely failed,” she said. “They are now more intense, more severe and we are lost.”
Neighbors, including Kitchen, have been working for years to find a solution to the problem. She thinks the trial is a positive step.
“Our city has done its best to work with us, the residents, and also with River Metals,” Kitchen said. “It’s a very difficult situation, but one that can be resolved if River Metals actually does what they say is a good neighbor.”
She believes a resolution is possible.
“The explosions must first and foremost stop. This is the very first step of their operations,” Kitchen said. “If they can’t stop the explosions, we have to move on to part two, now that the wall design has failed, we have to consider either an enclosure or they have to move to arid lands that are not near our homes.”
River Metals Recycling has operated in Newport for decades. It’s a subsidiary of steel-making company Nucor, which recently received millions in state tax incentives to expand a steel mill in Gallatin County. More than a dozen CMA locations operate in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Alabama, Tennessee and Illinois.
Read the full statement from River Metals Recycling Regional Manager Neal Coulardot here:
“River Metals Recycling pleaded not guilty at today’s arraignment to the City of Newport’s alleged violations of its zoning code and will vigorously defend itself against all such claims. Over the past year, we have worked working closely with the Mayor, Board of Commissioners and City Administration to reduce the noise impact of our operations and infrequent combustion events.In September 2021, we completed the construction and installation of a wall state-of-the-art noise barrier, in consultation with nationally recognized acoustic engineering experts, at a cost of over $300,000 The new noise wall has been effective in significantly reducing noise infrequent combustion events at our Newport facility.
Recycling scrap metal into new steel products is the primary production method used to make steel in the United States. This production process emits far fewer greenhouse gases than traditional steel production in blast furnaces, making the United States the cleanest place in the world to produce steel. River Metals Recycling, Kentucky’s largest metal recycler, is extremely proud to be part of the sustainable steel supply chain. We will continue to meet the highest and most advanced standards for safety, environmental stewardship and regulatory oversight and will continue to be proactive in reviewing and improving our recycling practices.
Being a good corporate citizen and responsible neighbor has been essential to the way River Metals Recycling has done business in Newport for decades. We continue to share the commitment of the Mayor and the rest of our city’s leadership, on behalf of its residents, to ensure that Newport remains a great place to live and work.
River Metals Recycling looks forward to continuing to operate at its current location in an industrial area of the City of Newport for years to come. We also look forward to continuing to work closely with the Board of Commissioners, the municipal administration and neighbors in our community.
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