Auburn Steel Company (Austeel) was located in Auburn, New York, and it began operations in 1974. The steel mill was considered a “mini mill” and occupied an 812,000-square foot building. Auburn Steel was in the business of reclaiming old steel in order to melt it into billets and finished products. In February 1983, Auburn Steel found that its steel was accidently contaminated with Cobalt 60, a radioactive material. The source of radiation was traced to scrap metal, but the origin was never determined. This accident led to numerous law suits, an environmental investigation and a $2 million-dollar clean-up of the facility. In 2002, Auburn Steel was acquired by Nucor Steel, which continues to operate the Auburn plant.
Prior to the late 1970s, asbestos could be found as a component of materials that were exposed to high heat temperatures, including pipe covering and insulation. Dozens of asbestos-containing materials, were installed and removed at steel plants throughout the United States. Inhaling dust and particles from the application and removal of asbestos-containing materials placed workers at risk for developing asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma or lung cancer.
Laborers at Auburn Steel utilized hot tops during the steel reclamation process. A hot top is a cast iron device located on the top of a steel mold, which traps impurities that rise out of the steel as the ingot cools and solidifies. In order to protect the hot top from damage, the interior of the hot top is lined with refractory materials. Prior to the late 1970s, asbestos was used as a refractory material because of its ability to withstand high temperatures. Hot tops used at Auburn Steel in Auburn were lined with either brick and asbestos-containing mortar or asbestos insulating boards.
Asbestos insulating boards were primarily manufactured by Ferro Engineering and Foseco Inc. The number of boards placed inside a hot top depended on the size of the mold, which ranged in size from one foot to ten feet wide. Even the act of handling an asbestos insulating board emitted asbestos fibers into the air. After each ingot or steel mold was cast, the asbestos insulating boards inside the hot top turned to ash and required replacement. Laborers used an air hose to remove the asbestos-containing ash from the hot top. This action created a cloud of asbestos-containing dust, which was inhaled by laborers working on the hot top and anyone else in the surrounding vicinity.
If you or your loved one worked at Auburn Steel (Austeel), in Auburn New York, and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.