In 1907, The Electro Metallurgical Company a.k.a. Electromet was established at the corner of 47th Street and Royal Avenue in Niagara Falls, New York. Electro Metallurgical produced ferro-metal alloys, tungsten, titanium, calcium carbide and acetylene. The company also provided extensive metallurgical research to other industries involved in the manufacture of carbon electrodes. In 1922, Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation (UCC) acquired The Electro Metallurgical Company as a wholly-owned subsidiary. During World War II, Electro was considered to be the largest producer of uranium metal, which was used for the Manhattan Project and ultimately for the creation of the atomic bomb and atomic reactors. Uranium processing began in April 1943 and continued until September 1949, with the exception of a standby period (September 1, 1946 – September 30, 1947). Electro was eventually absorbed into Union Carbide and operated as Union Carbide’s Electromet Division a.k.a. Union Carbide Metals Division. One of the buildings involved in processing uranium was demolished in 1958. Union Carbide operated the Niagara Falls plant until 1992. Today, the former Niagara Falls Union Carbide facility is operated by Praxair.
Prior to the late 1970s, asbestos-containing materials were utilized in construction and maintenance at the Electro Metallurgical Company in Niagara Falls, New York. Inhaling dust and particles from the application and removal of asbestos-containing materials placed workers at risk for developing serious health problems, such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Large furnaces transformed calcium carbide and ferro-alloys into molten uranium metal at Electro. At times, these furnaces reached an internal temperature of 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Insulating cement, which contained asbestos, lined the furnaces used to melt various metals. Workers mixed the asbestos-containing cement with water and then applied it to the surface of the furnaces. The mixing process created large clouds of asbestos-containing dust that floated through the facility.
Asbestos-containing materials also insulated steam and chemical lines system at Electro. Asbestos was incorporated into insulation that covered hot water pipes and associated equipment within the building’s steam heat system. Chemical lines were also insulated with asbestos-containing pipe covering, packing material and gaskets. Asbestos block insulation was applied to steam boilers and hot water tanks. When asbestos-containing insulation was handled or disturbed, it released asbestos fibers into the air and into the breathing zone of workers.
Most workers were not aware of the dangers of exposure to the asbestos dust, and carried on their work without masks or protective gear. Even workers who were not in direct contact with asbestos materials remain at risk for the development of asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma or lung cancer. The attorneys at Lipsitz & Ponterio have gathered a vast amount of information concerning the type and variety of asbestos-containing products to which our clients were exposed. If you or a loved one worked at the Albany Steam Station and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, please contact us for a free case evaluation.
Radiation Exposure and EEOICPA
During World War II, Electro processed uranium metal products that were shipped to various steel plants, rolling mills and other facilities, including Argonne National Laboratory and Simonds Saw and Steel. Electro received green salt (uranium tetrafluoride) in drums from the Linde Air plant in Tonawanda, New York. Electro produced uranium metal in high heat furnaces by reducing uranium tetrafluoride with magnesium metal thereby creating an instantaneous reaction and resulting in the formation of molten uranium. Molten uranium metal was then cast into ingots, and after it was cooled, the uranium metal was removed and cleaned. The clean uranium was then melted in a vacuum furnace and cast into billets in preparation for delivery to other facilities for processing. In order to provide monetary compensation and medical benefits to atomic weapons workers who were exposed to radiation and developed cancer as a result of radiation, the United States Department of Labor added a new class of employees to the Special Exposure Cohort of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA). For more information regarding EEOICPA and SEC, visit the EEOICPA section of our website.
DOL Press Release re Electro Metallurgical: