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Phase1 - Environmental Site Assessment



Blast Furnace Area (SCU 19)


Another original area of the steel plant is the Blast Furnace Area (Figure 5-1). The first four blast furnaces, or smelters, were constructed along the western edge of the Blast Furnace Stockyard around 1900. Several structures in this area date to the very early history of the plant, including the No. 3 Boiler House and the Turbo Blowers Building.

Iron was smelted in the blast furnaces, using virgin materials including iron ore, limestone and coke. The by-products of the process included air emissions of particulate matter and gases, and slag. The slag, consisting largely of limestone and silica, was the principle material used to infill portions of Muggah Creek.


Looking West at the Blast Furnace Area
from Whitney Pier

The No. 3 Blast Furnace remains on the site where a row of four once stood. To the west, four decaying stoves mark the former location of the No. 7 and No. 8 Blast Furnaces. Records indicate that these two furnaces were constructed between 1908 and 1912. No. 5 and No. 6 Blast Furnaces were apparently never built. Two of the six furnaces, possibly Nos. 2 and 4, were abandoned in the late 1920s.


The Sintering Plant was constructed in 1943 to the south of the No. 3 Blast Furnace, which was rebuilt at the same time. In the Sintering Plant, "clinkers" used in the smelting process were produced. In 1947, the No. 1 Blast Furnace was rebuilt. In 1951, a description of the plant included three operating blast furnaces. These were presumably the rebuilt Nos. 1 and 3, and the smaller No. 7 Blast Furnace. The No. 7 stopped being used around 1961.

The No. 3 Blast Furnace was again rebuilt in 1983/84, but operations were ended in 1989 with the completion of the Electric Arc Furnace. Since that time, the structure has been allowed to deteriorate. The area has been under the control of the Province of Nova Scotia since the early 1990s.

Recent reports by Environment Canada suggest that Sintering Plants may generate dioxins and furans through the intense heating process. As this is a recent discovery, no studies have been performed in the blast furnace area, with the exception of material testing currently being carried out by SEACOR (February 2002). The possibility exists that dioxin and furan residues may have impacted soils in the vicinity of the former Sintering Plant.

In 1993, the Tar Ponds Incinerator was constructed to the west of the No. 3 Boiler House. This fluidised bed incinerator uses some of the existing facilities, including portions of the No. 3 Boiler House, and the Harbour Pump House located to the north. The incinerator is currently not active, but is maintained by Sydney Environmental Resources Limited (SERL).

Much of the site infrastructure was removed in 1998 as part of the PLI demolition project, including the No. 1 Blast Furnace. Other facilities that have come and gone from the Blast Furnace site include the No. 2 Boiler House and the Electric Power House.


Looking North at the No.3 Power House


Today, in addition to the derelict blast furnaces and the Tar Ponds Incinerator, the No. 3 Power House, the "D" Boiler Extension, the Turbo Blowers building, and a variety of smaller, derelict support buildings remain on the site. With the exception of the incinerator, the buildings are vacant except for occasional use as storage.


Due to their young age, the Tar Ponds Incinerator buildings are not anticipated to contain hazardous building materials such as asbestos or PCBs. Electrical transformers associated with the Boiler House and No. 3 Power House may contain PCBs.

Over the past few years, SERL has undertaken asbestos abatement in various buildings in the Blast Furnace Area, including the "D" Boiler and Boiler House. These operations are nearing completion in January 2002.

Four aboveground storage tanks, installed around 1960, are located to the west of the "D" Boiler Extension. These tanks were formerly used to store bunker "C" fuel for the blast furnace boilers. The two southern tanks have approximate capacities of 55,000 litres, and the northern pair 80,000 litres. SERL reportedly had the tanks cleaned out within the past two years, but the two southern tanks are currently three-quarters full. While the hatches of these tanks are open, the material inside appears to mainly consist of bunker "C" fuel, indicating that the piping that remains connected to the tanks may still contain product. Heavy staining was observed on the tanks and the ground surface around the tanks.

A wastewater clarifier tank and associated control building are located to the west of the "D" Boiler Building. These structures were constructed in the early 1970s. Based on testing performed by SEACOR in 2002, the clarifier contains approximately 70 cubic metres of metal-impacted sludge, as well as 1200 cubic metres of water suitable for discharge to the SYSCO waterwater discharge system.

Several railway tracks are located throughout this area. Some tracks have been abandoned and covered with slag for many years. Environmental issues of concern associated with the rail tracks include creosote rail ties and potential contaminated soil under and adjacent to the tracks.

  Looking East at the Blast Furnace Site
from No. 2 Pier C. 1901 (Beaton Institute)

Several sewers traverse the Blast Furnace Area. 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 blast furnaces and boiler buildings. 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.

  Potential Environmental Issues  

Potential environmental issues associated with the Blast Furnace Area include the presence of hazardous building materials and stored chemicals. As part of the ongoing decommissioning program, SEACOR has performed extensive testing of all potential hazardous materials associated with:

  • the No. 3 Blast Furnace
  • the No. 7 Blast Furnace
  • the clarifier and associated buildings
  • pipe racks and utility poles in the southern end of SCU 19.

Environmental decommissioning plans are being executed in February 2002. In the remaining buildings, various containers of solvents, lubricants and paints may remain, as well as ozone depleting substances such as CFCs, contained in air conditioning units, water coolers and refrigerators.

As with all steel production and fabrication areas at the plant, the handling and storage of ores and alloys, and air emissions from the furnaces and boilers, may have resulted in heavy metal and PAH impacts to soils and groundwater, as well as residual acid drainage effects. Process sewers may have resulted in petroleum hydrocarbon, heavy metal, solvent, PAH and PCB impacts to soil and groundwater. In addition, dioxins and furans may be associated with the former Sintering Plant location and related facilities.

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