September 20, 2017
Once a key part in Pittsburgh’s role as the nation’s iron and steel-making capital, the property of LTV Steel, formerly known as J&L Steel in Hazelwood, may now have the chance to be a part of a new endeavor – the location of Amazon’s second headquarters. Now known as the Almono, a name that pays tribute to the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers, this steel mill played a major role in our nation’s steel history for the better part of the 20th century.
J&L Steel was founded in the 1850s, initially just producing iron. In 1886, J&L began manufacturing steel and grew from two plants to three, with the addition of Aliquippa Works, in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. For over a century, J&L Steel prospered in the Pittsburgh area, but with the decline of steel in the 1970s and 80s, the steel mills became less profitable and J&L Steel, which eventually became LTV Steel, closed its doors for good in 1998.
Asbestos In Steel Mills
Many positions and occupations within steel mills allowed extreme levels of asbestos exposure among the workers. Known for its high tensile strength and heat resistant qualities, asbestos was a popular material that was used throughout the steelmaking industry. Blast furnaces, coke ovens, basic oxygen furnaces, and open hearth furnaces were all lined with asbestos, as each one of these devices was designed to handle extreme amounts of heat. Beehive ovens, used mostly at the Hazelwood coke plant, baked coal and transformed it into an almost pure form of carbon. Steel workers, foremen, and supervisors alike were all in danger of being exposed to asbestos during this time period, and different jobs associated with each area increased the risk of asbestos exposure.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen and is recognized as the cause of some diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. Asbestos fibers are sharp and nearly invisible to the naked eye. When the fibers become airborne, they are easily inhaled, and become embedded and trapped in organs and soft tissue inside the body. Over a period of decades, these tiny fibers become buried deeper in the soft tissue, as the body is unable to expel the fibers. The asbestos fibers eventually cause inflammation and scarring, making affected areas such as the lungs, stiff. Airflow is difficult, resulting in the patient having an extremely hard time breathing. As more time passes, the individual has an increased risk of developing asbestos-related cancers such as lung cancer and mesothelioma.
LTV, the conglomerate that bought out J&L Steel in 1984 declared bankruptcy just two years later, in 1986 due to the amount of asbestos-related lawsuits it was facing. Under the protection of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, no new lawsuits were able to be filed and LTV was able to leave the protection of Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1993. Unfortunately for LTV Steel, the company never fully recovered, and had to file for bankruptcy again in 2000. By 2001, LTV was no longer in operation.
Today, the 178-acre site now known as Almono is in the midst of a transition that includes the development of light manufacturing, apartments, shops, restaurants, and CMU’s Advanced Robotics Manufacturing Institute. Recently, the Almono area is part of the bid that city officials are putting together for Amazon, who has announced that Pittsburgh may be in the running for the location of its second headquarters.
Even though the Hazelwood plant has been closed for years, the lingering effects of asbestos exposure are still coming to light. The toxic asbestos fibers remain dormant in workers for 20 years or more, placing these individuals at risk for mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. At Goldberg, Persky & White, P.C., our jobsite database has over 500 steel mills throughout the country where our clients have been exposed to asbestos. If you are suffering from an asbestos-related illness you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the attorneys at GPW today for a free, no obligation consultation.
Jeffery Fraser, “Next Stage,” The Magazine of Heinz Endowments, Issue 1. (2017). [Link]
Mark Belko, “More Potential Sites in Pittsburgh Region Emerge for Amazon’s Second Headquarters,” Pittsburgh Post Gazette (September 19, 2017). [Link]
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