Scrap metal operation shuts down in Somerset

No word yet on whether zoning appeal is coming

AT AROUND  7 p.m. Monday night, the clanging sound of scrap metal being loaded onto a ship at Brayton Point in Somerset appeared to come to a halt.

According to neighbors, Eastern Metal Recycling filled a waiting ship to the brim with scrap metal and then began to shut down the operation, complying with a deadline set by Land Court Judge Robert Foster. The ship was still tied up at the Brayton Point dock Tuesday morning, but it’s expected to be leaving soon. 

The shutdown of the scrap metal operation is the culmination – at least for now – of one of the most divisive issues in Somerset’s history. The St. Louis-based owner of Brayton Point tore down the old coal-fired power plant that long operated there with the plan of transforming the property into a staging area for the emerging offshore wind industry. But lengthy delays in the federal permitting of offshore wind farms prompted the property’s owner to lease part of the property to Eastern Metal Recycling and a road salt distribution company.  

Neighbors complained about the truck traffic, the noise, and the metal dust plaguing their neighborhood, and ultimately prevailed at the ballot box (gaining control of the Select Board and other town agencies) and in court.

Foster ruled on March 8 that “dust from the scrap metal operation is leaving the site and being blown into the neighborhood, where it causes harm to the property and health of the residents.” He gave the scrap metal operation until Monday night to shut down.

A sign near Brayton Point in Somerset thanking Land Court Judge Robert Foster for his decision shutting down the scrap metal export operation.

Kathy Souza, a neighbor of Brayton Point, a member of the Somerset Select Board, and one of the named parties in the lawsuit that brought the scrap metal operation to a halt, said on Tuesday morning that she assumes the ship will go out at high tide around midday. She said she walked down to the water around 6:30 a.m. and could see a pile of scrap metal behind the ship. A picture taken from a drone at 9:30 a.m. showed a pile of scrap remaining.

Officials with Commercial Development Inc., the St. Louis company that owns Brayton Point, did not respond to queries about whether the scrap metal export operation was being closed down for good. 

At a recent court hearing, company officials said they had hired an engineering company to take all sorts of sound and dust measurements during the ship loading process to gather evidence for an appeal to the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals that the scrap metal operation should be given a second chance.

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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.

Such a request is likely to face strong opposition in Somerset. Souza and two other parties to the lawsuit — Nancy Thomas and Nicole McDonald — say the final loading process moved much more slowly than usual to reduce noise and dust levels the engineering firm was tracking. Company officials said the loading procedures had not changed.

Attorney General Maura Healey’s office has been investigating possible environmental violations at Brayton Point for months, but so far no action has been taken.