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Proposed Newport ordinance hopes to quiet explosions at recycling plant

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Posted at 11:17 PM, Jun 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-15 12:13:23-04

NEWPORT, Ky. — Newport City leaders are taking new steps to address explosions at a local scrap metal company.

River Metals Recycling has been operating along the Licking River for decades, but recent complaints by residents forced the city to investigate the daily loud booms that resonate from the company's premises.

A new ordinance was introduced at Monday night's city commission meeting to help ease the problem for those living close to the thunderous business.

The operation of the scrap metal recycling company is noisy: Cars, among other things, are crushed and dismantled on a daily basis.

“The piece of machinery that they use is a large hammer mill that are swung around, so when an automobile or something gets fed into it, it actually shreds,” said Newport City Commissioner Ken Rechtin.

In some cases, a “combustion event,” or explosion happens, shaking nearby homes.

“There are occasions, and it happened very frequently, that they would have explosions,” Rechtin said. “They could be propane tanks, all sorts of things.”

After years of complaints by neighbors, city commissioners are hoping to put an end to it. Under the proposed ordinance, companies like River Metals Recycling would be forced to self-monitor and report every explosion to the city each month.

“This does not model on decibel levels or safety issues; it’s only the fact on the number,” Newport city manager Thomas Fromme said.

Failure to report will result in a fine, and so will explosions in general. Rechtin said he hopes the ordinance encourages the company to be more proactive.

“There are solutions to that, solutions like pre-shredders that actually slit the material before it goes into the shredding machine,” he said. “The ordinance this evening is an encouragement for that industry to make a more modern approach to removing and disposing of metals.”

Ideally, the ordinance will prevent future explosions and increase the quality of life for those who live nearby.

“If we can begin to put the onus on RMR, they’re going to decrease the number,” Rechtin said. “We have a responsibility, I believe, to help the citizens in their quiet enjoyment of the property and their life, so hopefully we can get back to that.”

The ordinance needs a second reading in order to become law. The next commissioners meeting is scheduled for July 19.