October 10, 2008

Council Seeks to Tighten Rules on Scrap Yards

By Mark Reynolds

JOHNSTON -- The Town Council is poised to vote on a proposal to regulate local scrap yards and auto-salvage operations, forcing them to present fire prevention plans to the fire chief and comply with other new requirements.

The ordinance, on the council's agenda for Tuesday, seeks to enhance safety in the aftermath of a blaze that consumed the crushed hulks of an estimated 600 vehicles at Metals Recycling off Oakdale Avenue this past August.

"I believe that it will minimize the fire potential so we hopefully cannot have a repeat of what happened in August," said Fire Chief Andrew J. Baynes.

The proposed ordinance mandates that each facility: establish a fire protection plan; comply with new rules, including a 10-foot height limit on piles of material, and banish the collection of auto parts such as gas tanks, fuel cells, tires, batteries and safety- restraint systems.

It also allows the fire chief or designee to conduct random, unannounced inspections of the facilities licensed under the ordinance. A facility can lose its license if it fails to pass three inspections within a three-year period.

The ordinance requires each facility to be enclosed with gates and video surveillance.

In light of problems that allowed the fire to spread from one pile of crushed vehicles to another, the ordinance restricts the size and placement of storage piles. Under the proposed ordinance, storage piles are not permitted within 25 feet of any fence or building.

At present, the town has eight scrap yards, including Metals Recycling.

"The problem is most of these junk yards and scrap yards are in residential neighborhoods," said Mayor Joseph M. Polisena.

Polisena said the proposed regulations will improve safety for residents and emergency crews and improve quality of life in neighborhoods near scrap yards.

Residents near some plants say they hear scrapped vehicles' gasoline tanks exploding from time to time. The ordinance aims to end that by requiring the removal of the tanks before the vehicles are brought into the yard.

"I just want to make sure that the neighbors are safe and there's a minimum disturbance of their quality of life and this ordinance will do that," Polisena said.

Also, the state Department of Environmental Management will provide information to residents at a forum on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Senior Center.

Johnston [email protected] / (401) 277-7490

Originally published by Mark Reynolds, Journal Staff Writer.

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