Roblin Steel was located on South Roberts Road in Dunkirk, New York. The 12-acre site was first developed in 1910 as part of a locomotive manufacturing company called American Locomotive Company (ALCO). ALCO used this site to manufacture process equipment consisting of heat exchangers, tunnel shields and steel pipes. During WWII, ALCO manufactured naval vessels, missile housing, nozzles and boosters for the war. The Atomic Energy Commission took over the plant in the late 1940s, and at that time, utilized the former ALCO facility for the manufacture of nuclear reactor components and package reactor units.
Roblin Steel purchased the former ALCO site in 1969, and operated a steel reclamation business, which employed roughly 280 workers. The plant consisted of three electric arc furnaces, several dust collection system baghouses, an outdoor electrical substation, multiple transformer rooms, rolling and hammer mills, a compressor house and a variety of other process equipment. The open lot directly next to the Dunkirk site, was owned by Roblin Steel and used as a landfill. In addition to its Dunkirk plant, Roblin operated a rolling mill in North Tonawanda and a scrap facility in Lackawanna. Roblin Steel’s Dunkirk facility ceased operations in 1987, and the former steel site sat idle until 1994, when the EPA began remediation of the site and removed 700 drums of hazardous waste. Chautauqua County obtained the property through tax foreclosure in 2001, and the property has since been listed as a Brownfield site by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
Prior to the late 1970s, dozens of asbestos-containing materials, were installed and removed at Roblin Steel’s Dunkirk plant, including asbestos refractory materials and asbestos-containing pipe-covering. 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 Roblin Steel’s Dunkirk plant utilized hot tops during the steel-making process. A hot top is a cast iron device located on the top of a steel mold, and it 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. The hot tops used at Roblin Steel in Dunkirk 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.
Exposure to asbestos dust and fibers resulting from working in a steel plant put many laborers and their families at risk for developing mesothelioma or lung cancer. If you or a loved one were once employed at Roblin Steel in Dunkirk, New York, and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.