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Recycling plant explosions have shaken a local neighborhood for years

River Metals Recycling
Posted at 4:42 PM, Apr 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-06 17:55:35-04

NEWPORT, Ky. — Morning, afternoon and evening, neighbors of River Metals Recycling said they have dealt with large explosions at the facility that rattle windows, shake homes and startle families out of their beds.

According to the city of Newport, River Metals Recycling hasn't been cited at all over the last five years for the explosions. The company was issued one notice of violation, notifying the RMR it broke the rules; that was just sent out last month.

"In the recycling of metals there can be occasional combustion events," the company told WCPO in March.

Jeff Zemanek, who lives in Newport, said he was awakened at 6:36 a.m. one morning by one of the explosions from RMR.

"Going through this and then trying to continue your day and get into work and it's really hard to concentrate," he said. "When is the next one going to come. Especially when you have three in one day."

Zemanek and others in the area have been asking the City of Newport to stop RMR's explosions for years.

On March 15, Newport sent RMR a notice which said the city contracted an engineering firm to place monitoring equipment at the recycling plant. They began monitoring on Jan. 4 and determined that "on at least three separate occasions, combustion events were recorded that exceeded the Sound Pressure Level thresholds referenced in the Zoning Code."

The explosions found to be a violation happened on Jan. 22, Feb. 18 and March 15.

The notice also informed RMR that it has 30 days to correct the violations.

WCPO has reached out to RMR for comment and has not heard back.

In March, Tom Fromme, Newport city manager, said in a statement, "We are currently working on additional legislation in an effort to address these incidents." The City of Newport's codes department declined to comment for this report.

Legislation has not been publicly released, but it could be discussed as early as the next commission meeting on Monday, April 19.

RMR's explosions haven't just been an issue for Newport residents; people living near the company's location in Louisville have made similar complaints.

For now, residents are hopeful the city is moving the process toward fixing the problem.

"I feel hopeful," said Zemanek. "I think there's a groundswell now; there's enough people talking about it."