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Phase1 - Environmental Site Assessment



Steel Shop Complex (SCU 16)


Located in the heart of the steel plant, the Caster Building and Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) dominate the landscape of the Steel Shop Complex area (Figure 5-1). Since the establishment of the steel plant over 100 years ago, this area has always been used for the production of raw steel. The No. 1 Open Hearth building once extended from the north side of the Caster Building to the Axel Conditioning building. The first steel produced at the plant was tapped in the No. 1 Open Hearth on December 31, 1901.


Melt Shop and Caster Building (EDM photo)

This structure housed 10 tipping open hearth furnaces and was originally fueled by a battery of gas producers. These gas producers were located along the west side of the No. 1 Open Hearth, and apparently converted coal into combustible gases such as acetylene and methane through the process known as coal gasification. By-products of this process are similar to those of the coking process: coal tar, ammonia and light oils.  

Around 1947, the No. 2 Open Hearth furnaces (Section 5.1.2) were converted to bunker ‘C’ fuel, as were five of the No. 1 Open Hearth furnaces. The remaining five furnaces were shut down in 1953 because their capacity was no longer needed. This structure was demolished in stages between 1973 and 1998.

Along the east side of the No. 1 Open Hearth were lime kilns and a calcining plant that supplied the open hearth furnaces. By 1975, these support buildings had been removed. Several railway tracks are located throughout this area. Some tracks have been abandoned and covered with slag for many years.

In the Hot Topper Building, later known as Ritcy’s Barn, steel ladles were topped with an insulating material to help keep the molten steel from cooling prematurely. Later, the building was used for the maintenance of narrow-gauge locomotives. The building was constructed some time between 1939 and 1953, and demolished in 1998. Located to the west, in the area now occupied by the EAF building and bag house, were two brick storage sheds. These buildings appear to have been constructed some time before World War 2 and removed prior to 1953.

The Ingot Stripper Craneway, where the steel ingots were removed from their molds, was located to the north of the Blooming Mill. The traveling crane was demolished in 2001 following decommissioning, including the removal of lubricating fluids, mercury-containing light filaments, and PCB-containing lighting ballasts.


Ignot Stripper Craneway with Castor Building
in Background

The Ingot Stripper Craneway, where the steel ingots were removed from their molds, was located to the north of the Blooming Mill. The traveling crane was demolished in 2001 following decommissioning, including the removal of lubricating fluids, mercury-containing light filaments, and PCB-containing lighting ballasts.  
  The Caster Building was constructed between 1973 and 1975. In this building, the molten steel was cast into slabs and blooms that in turn would be rolled into steel products in the rolling mills. A wastewater treatment system is located on the north side of the building, including a large clarifier tank.

The Electric Arc Furnace was constructed during the modernization program carried out in 1988/89. Using an electric arc to melt scrap steel, this facility replaced the blast furnaces and open hearth furnaces located in the north end of the site.

The Bag House, located to the south of the EAF Building, is the primary air pollution control device for the electric arc furnace. Bag House dust was disposed in the EAF dust landfill located near the High Dump. The unit is primarily constructed of metal and concrete with associated ducting, fans, cooler, bags, compartments, pelletizer and conveyor system. The control room is constructed of concrete, brick and steel. The control room contains florescent lighting and electrical control panels.

Baghouse dust contains heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, chromium and zinc and may contain dioxin. Recent reports by Environment Canada suggest that electric arc furnaces may generate dioxins and furans through the intense heating process. As this is a recent discovery, no studies have been performed at the Sydney Steel Plant. While there is no evidence to suggest that this is the case, the possibility exists that dioxin and furan residues may have impacted the interior surfaces of the EAF building.

Due to their young age, the EAF Building and Bag House are not anticipated to contain hazardous building materials such as asbestos or PCBs. The older Caster Building may contain these materials. In fact, 14 PCB-containing transformers are associated with the Caster Building (Sydney Steel PCB Inventory).

Pipelines conveying gas from the coking process followed the East Perimeter Road from the Victoria Road overpass to the No. 2 Open Hearth building. At certain locations this pipe ran underground, including the Steel Production Area. A 24-inch diameter pipe runs from the east side of the East Perimeter Road near the Brick Shed in a northwestern direction, terminating at the former location of the No. 1 Open Hearth Building. Due to the fact that the coke ovens gas was, in effect, exhaust from the coking process, PAH impacts, volatile compounds and flammable residues may be associated with the coke ovens gas lines.

Several small and large diameter sewers, some dating to the original steel plant, traverse the Steel Shop Complex. Over the years, it is suspected that a variety of chemicals and petroleum products may have been disposed through the steel plant sewer system, including the process sewer from the No. 1 Open Hearth building, the Caster House, and the EAF. This sewer discharges at the head of Blast Furnace Cove. The potential exists for soil and groundwater impacts at location where this sewer line may have leaked or deteriorated.

The majority of open space in this area is covered with granular materials. Slopes at certain locations show signs of surface erosion. Stormwater catchbasins are located throughout the area, presenting the possibility of siltation and sediment impacts to receiving waters.

A general provision in SYSCO’s Industrial Approval states that preventative maintenance must be carried out on all wastewater treatment processes, including collector pits, sumps, clarifiers, oil separators, and settling basins. Since the plant ceased operations in 2000, occasional inspections have been conducted of the dormant systems.

Potential Environmental Issues
Several potential environmental issues are associated with the Steel Shop Complex. Various containers of solvents, lubricants and paints remain in the buildings, as well as ozone depleting substances such as CFCs, contained in air conditioning units, water coolers and refrigerators. Glycol has been used as a hydraulic fluid at several locations in the EAF and Caster buildings. Most glycol was exchanged for petroleum-based hydraulic fluid in 1993/94.

Due to the past operation of the coal gasification plants, coal tar and light oil contamination may be present in the subsurface of SCU 16. Although the gas producers had ceased operation by the mid-20th century, impacts may yet be present depending on the manner in which by-products were disposed. Environmental issues of concern associated with the rail tracks will include creosote rail ties and potential contaminated soil under and adjacent to the tracks.

As with all steel production and fabrication areas at the plant, the heating of steel, storage of raw materials and air emissions may have resulted in heavy metal and PAH impacts to soils and groundwater in the Steel Shop Complex. The use of bunker ‘C’ fuel, solvents, glycol and lubricants may also have resulted in impacts to soil and groundwater. Dioxin, heavy metal, and PAH residues may be present in the EAF and Caster Buildings.


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