In its heyday, Republic Steel, as well as Lackawanna Steel and Bethlehem Steel, enabled Buffalo, New York to become one of the largest steel-producing locations in the United States. Republic Steel was initially founded in 1905 by Spencer Kellogg as the New York State Steel Company. In 1915, it was acquired by William H. Donner and renamed the Donner Steel Company; and in 1930, Cyrus Eaton purchased Donner Steel and merged it with his existing steel company, Republic Steel. During its peak production years, Republic Steel was the third-largest steel producer in the United States. Located on South Park Avenue in South Buffalo, Republic Steel’s Buffalo plant spanned nearly 300 acres. Beginning in the late 1970’s, foreign competition and decreased demand for steel caused Republic Steel to cut its operations. In 1984, the Buffalo plant was closed and demolished.
In recent years, former employees of Republic Steel have developed and died of mesothelioma, lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases. Asbestos was incorporated into numerous materials at Republic Steel, and it could also be found in workers’ protective clothing, such as gloves and aprons. Workers who handled asbestos materials or worked in the vicinity of others who did were at a high risk for injurious exposure and at risk for developing mesothelioma, lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases.
Republic Steel operated nine open hearth furnaces, two basic oxygen furnaces and two blast furnaces at the plant, which contained asbestos refractory materials. A refractory material is a non-metallic material that is capable of resisting high temperatures and other destructive forces present, such as slag, corrosion and abrasion. Asbestos was an ideal component for refractory materials. Because of the constant, high temperatures experienced in the furnaces, asbestos-containing refractory materials degraded and required frequent repair or reapplication. During both these processes, asbestos dust and fibers became airborne, which workers inhaled.
Over sixty buildings were located at Republic Steel‘s Buffalo, New York plant, including bar mills, blooming mills, powerhouses and shipping buildings. Dozens of asbestos-containing materials, such as pipe covering, gaskets, packing material, insulating cement and block insulation were also utilized in the buildings and mills. Workers who handled, or worked in the vicinity of asbestos-containing materials are at risk for developing mesothelioma or lung cancer.
Asbestos-containing pipe covering was utilized as an insulation material that lined the outside of steam pipes throughout the South Buffalo job site. Asbestos block insulation and insulating cement covered boilers. Asbestos-containing packing material and gaskets were contained within pipes, valves and pumps in the steam system. Gaskets ensured a tight seal between flanges, and packing material prevented leaks from valve stems and pump shafts. During maintenance and repair procedures, workers removed worn pipe covering or block insulation; scraped gaskets from flanges; and pulled packing material from pumps and valves. These processes emitted clouds of asbestos-containing dust or fibers into the air.
Our clients understand the importance of securing legal representation as soon as possible after a diagnosis of mesothelioma or lung cancer. If you or a loved one were once employed at Republic Steel in Buffalo, New York, and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.