Co-Worker Describes the Steel Making Process and Asbestos Exposure

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Simonds Saw and Steel

The Simonds Saw and Steel facility in Lockport, New York, was established in 1911 to replace a previous facility in Chicago, Illinois. This move was undertaken in order to utilize hydroelectric power from Niagara Falls, and to allow for greater control over the quality of the steel used in their tools. In 1965, Simonds sold the mill to Wallace-Murray, who operated the facility until 1978. At that time, it was purchased by Guterl Special Steel Corporation. The mill closed in 1983, after Guterl filed for bankruptcy. In 1984, a portion of the facility was purchased by Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corporation for the production of specialty steel products. Asbestos-containing refractory and insulating materials were used in the production process at Simonds. Workers who handled asbestos-containing materials, or those who were in the vicinity of those workers who did, are at risk for developing mesothelioma, lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases.

In the melting and casting departments at Simonds Saw and Steel, Ajax induction furnaces were used to produce molten steel. Laborers who operated these furnaces wore asbestos mitts to protect their hands from the high temperatures involved in steel making. On a regular basis, these furnaces were broken down with air hammers and rebuilt to replace the refractory linings. This ensured that the molten metal could not touch the heating coils. Layers of asbestos paper were incorporated into the refractory material. When the furnaces were dismantled, the asbestos paper was torn apart by the air hammer, which released clouds of asbestos-containing dust into the air. As the furnaces were rebuilt, new linings of asbestos paper were cut and put into place, which also caused asbestos fibers to become airborne.

When molten steel was heated to a high temperature, it was poured into an ingot mold to cool and take a shape that could be more easily handled. As the molten steel cooled and hardened, any impurities contained within the steel rose to the top of the mold. In order to increase efficiency and decrease waste, a cast iron device called a hot top was placed on top of the mold to trap these impurities. Due to the high temperature of molten steel, the interior of the hot top was lined with refractory materials. At Simonds Saw and Steel, asbestos-containing refractory mortar was used to protect the hot tops from heat damage. This refractory mortar was replaced before every use. In order to make the mortar, a dry mix was poured into a tub or bucket, and mixed with water. As this dry mix was poured and mixed with water, asbestos fibers were released into the air. Anyone who was in the vicinity of the pouring and mixing could have been exposed to asbestos. Additionally, the hot tops at Simonds were wrapped with asbestos rope to ensure a good seal with the ingot mold. Handling, cutting or disturbing this rope caused asbestos dust to become airborne. After the steel ingot had hardened sufficiently, the hot top was removed and the remnants of the refractory material and asbestos rope were blown out with an air hose, which emitted more asbestos fibers into the atmosphere.

Lipsitz & Ponterio, LLC represents former workers and retirees from the former Simonds Saw and Steel mill in Lockport. In the process of representing these workers and their families, we have gathered a vast amount of information concerning the types of asbestos-containing materials to which our clients were exposed. If you or a loved one were once employed at Simonds Saw and Steel and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.

*Photograph of Simonds Saw and Steel is courtesy of: http://www.lrb.usace.army.mil/Portals/45/docs/FUSRAP/Guterl/guterl-presentation-remedinv-2010-10.pdf