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Neighbors Decry Dust and ‘Metal Thunder’ from Brayton Point Scrap Operation

Piles of scrap metal at the Brayton Point Commerce Center on June 2, 2021.
Courtesy Kathy Souza
Piles of scrap metal at the Brayton Point Commerce Center on June 2, 2021.

Clouds of dust and the clash of metal have become part of daily life in Somerset’s Brayton Point neighborhood, says Kathy Souza.

Souza lives blocks from the Brayton Point Commerce Center, a port on Mt. Hope Bay where Patriot Stevedoring & Logistics LLC loads scrap metal onto ships. She says the operation makes a racket day and night.

“The noise is brutal,” says Souza, who heads the citizens’ group Save Our Bay Brayton Point. “It’s impossible for the kids in the neighborhood to sleep. We call it metal thunder.”

Souza has asthma, and she says metal dust drifting from the site sometimes makes it hard for her to walk in the neighborhood.

Patriot Stevedoring & Logistics now faces legal action over its handling of scrap metal. An investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency found the company dropped scrap metal into Mt. Hope Bay while using a mechanical claw to load ships between February and October of 2020. The EPA levied a $27,000 fine and prompted the company to halt its use of the mechanical claw.

EPA Acting Regional Administrator Deb Szaro credits local residents like Souza for raising the alarm about conditions at the port. “I've heard a lot from the citizenry about Brayton point and the activities going on there,” she says. “I want them to know that EPA is listening, and EPA is taking action to protect their health and the environment.”

But Souza says despite the fine, the metal dust and excessive noise continue to stifle daily life in her neighborhood. She calls for further action against Patriot Stevedoring & Logistics.

On May 11, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey issued a 60-day notice of intent to sue Patriot Stevedoring & Logistics and two affiliated companies—Eastern Metal Recycling-Terminal LLC and Brayton Point LLC—for possible violations of the federal Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.

For now, members of Save Our Bay Brayton Point are independently monitoring the company’s operations, using photos, video and sound monitoring in attempt to document possible violations.

Patriot Stevedoring & Logistics did not respond to WCAI’s request for comment.

Daniel Ackerman has left CAI.
In his time at the station he reported on the South Coast. He came to the station from Minnesota Public Radio, where he reported on science and the environment. Daniel has produced audio documentaries on a motley mix of topics, from the science of sewage to the history of automobile license plates. He holds a PhD in climate change ecology from the University of Minnesota. Daniel was a 2021-22 Report For America corps member.