Brayton Point scrap metal business asks for more time

Judge OKs longer hours, rejects shutdown extension

A clarification has been added to this story.

THE BATTLE over the scrap metal heap at Brayton Point in Somerset looks like it’s going to go down to the wire.

Land Court Judge Robert Foster on March 8 ordered the scrap metal export business operating at Brayton Point to shut down by March 21 because of the metal dust blowing into a nearby neighborhood. On Tuesday, Eastern Metals Recycling and its landlord asked Foster during a Zoom hearing for more time to ship the remaining scrap metal out on a docked ship. Officials said they wanted to expand the hours of operation by three hours and/or move the shutdown date to March 25.

“I’m inclined to give them some leeway,” Foster told the three neighborhood women who led the charge against the scrap metal business. “I think it’s in your interest to get that ship out of there.” (CLARIFICATION: The judge, through a spokeswoman, said after initial publication that he said ship, but it sounded like he might have said shit. An earlier version of the story indicated there was confusion about what he said.)

But the three women — Nicole McDonald, Kathy Souza, and Nancy Thomas — pushed back, wondering why, if the company was so pressed for time, it kept accepting truckloads of scrap metal after the judge issued his original order. Company officials offered a vague explanation, attributing the additional truckloads to contractual obligations.

The company officials said they stopped accepting scrap metal on Monday and began turning away any trucks that pulled up to the gates. Thomas said the trucks were still delivering metal on Tuesday, but company officials insisted any trucks with metal were being turned away. Thomas said she could see a truck loaded with scrap metal entering the facility from her home’s window. “There’s a truck coming in right now,” she said.

Foster acknowledged his March 8 order was silent on new deliveries and what should be done with the scrap metal heap. He said he would allow the scrap metal business to extend its operating hours: instead of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., the hours will now be 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. But he said the shutdown deadline of close-of-business March 21 remains firm.

“When the bell rings on March 21, it’s over. Whatever is there is there,” he said, suggesting the disposal of any remaining metal after that date would be a matter between the company and the town.

The three women used the hearing to press for assurances that no more metal would be brought in and the ship currently in port would be the last one picking up scrap metal. Company officials acceded to both demands.

Company officials said they had hired an engineering company to take all sorts of measurements during the loading process to make a case to the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals that the scrap metal operation should be given a second chance.

The three women said the loading process was moving at a much slower pace than usual, perhaps to reduce noise and dust levels the engineering firm was tracking. Company officials said the pace of loading was no different than it was before.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

The fight over the scrap metal operation at Brayton Point has divided Somerset for years, and the business only got its start there when the original plan for the property fell through. The St. Louis company that bought Brayton Point tore down the shuttered coal-fired power plant there in 2018 and planned to convert the property into a staging area for the emerging offshore wind industry.

Those plans got put on hold when the federal government put the offshore wind industry on hold for nearly two years. In the interim, the owner of Brayton Point leased a portion of the land to the scrap metal export business, whose dust and noise alienated a nearby neighborhood and eventually most of the town and led to a court battle that was just recently resolved.

Now that the Biden administration is backing offshore wind, the industry is back on the move and Brayton Point is attracting interest. The Prysmiam Group, for example, recently purchased 47 acres at Brayton Point where it intends to build a submarine cable manufacturing operation.