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Phase1 - Environmental Site Assessment



Universal Mill Complex (SCU 15)


The Universal Mill Complex area is named for its newest addition, the Universal Mill or U-Mill (Figure 5-1). The history of this area dates to 1902 and the first rolling of steel at the Sydney Steel Plant. Approximately 12 buildings and related facilities have been constructed in this area over the past 100 years, most of which remain today in one form or another.


Universal Mill with Mills Offices (white) in middleground

The Blooming Mill was apparently the first building constructed in this area, starting operation in 1902. A gas producer, or coal gasification plant, was located on the east side of the Blooming Mill until about 1950. About this same time, the present day Blooming Mill Motor House was added.


A large transformer containing PCB liquid is associated with the Motor House, and three additional PCB-containing units are located in the Blooming Mill Reheat Transfer Room (Sydney Steel PCB Inventory).

  The ingots of steel produced in the open hearth ovens were rolled into blooms in the Blooming Mill. Prior to rolling, the ingots were heated to a uniform temperature in the “soaking pits”, located in the north extension of the Blooming Mill now known as the Axel Conditioning area. The media in which the ingots were soaked was intense heat, fuelled at first by the gas producers and later by coke ovens gas and bunker ‘C’ fuel.

Although the Reheat Furnace was constructed in 1975, the soaking pits continued in use until 1990 when they were filled with slag. The air emission stacks for the soaking pits were demolished in 1999.
Ingot being removed
from the soaking pit
(Beaton Institute)

Initially, bunker ‘C’ fuel was supplied from a large aboveground tank that was in turn supplied from the Tank Farm located near the High Dump. This tank was removed in 1990 and a 560,000 litre aboveground storage tank and two 114,000 litre aboveground tanks installed to the north of the Reheat Furnace. These tanks are located within concrete dykes and were filled by tanker truck. Staining was noted on the tank and adjacent concrete.

Several railway tracks are located throughout this area. Some tracks have been abandoned and covered with slag. Environmental issues of concern associated with the rail tracks include creosote rail ties and potential contaminated soil under and adjacent to the tracks. In the past, used oil was often used for dust suppression on roadways on the steel plant property.

The northwest portion of SCU 15 has historically been the scrap steel handling area. Located to the west of the Bloom Reheat Furnace and the U-Mill, various types of scrap metal are presently stored in this area. A large travelling crane was used to move the scrap within this area and transfer it to vehicles for transport to the open hearth, and later the EAF building.

The Rail Mill, which produced that staple of the Sydney plant until 1989, was constructed in 1905 and renovated several times through its lifespan. The 70-metre long No. 1 Mills Boiler House, that was located to the east of the Blooming Mill, originally powered the mill.

  The Rail Mill was later driven by electrical power supplied by the Rail Mill Motor House, now referred to as the “Old Motor House”. The large electric motor turned a steel shaft and the attached flywheel located in the Rail Mill. The flywheel served to store mechanical energy and power required to roll the steel blooms into rails.

An electrical room in the south end of the Rail Mill contains three pad-mounted electrical transformers. Testing by SEACOR indicates that these units do not contain PCB liquids.
Old Motor House with
Former Rail Mill


Extensions were added to the north end of the Blooming Mill in 1937, 1951 and 1957. The extended area was later used for the conditioning of axels manufactured at the steel plant. Both the Blooming and Rail Mills appear to have been originally constructed with brick walls on a steel frame. The No. 1 Mills Boiler, which also dated to the first decade of the 20th century, was likely of the same construction. Later, much of the brick on the Blooming and Rail Mills was removed and replaced by metal siding. The roof of the Blooming Mill extension is sheathed with asbestos-containing transite panels. Lubricating oils were used liberally in the Rail Mill throughout its 84-year history, as evidenced by extensive staining on the earth floor of the building. While lubricants were also used throughout the Blooming Mill, applications tended to be considerably lower in volume.

Universal Mills Complex continued on next page


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