The Hanna Furnace facility in Buffalo, New York, processed iron ore into pig iron, a primary ingredient in the steel making process. This site was constructed in 1903 by the Buffalo Union Steel Company, at the southern border of Buffalo on swampy land bordering Lake Erie. Soon after the facility began operations, the Union Ship Canal was dug to facilitate the transfer of materials to and from the numerous Great Lakes freighters operating between Buffalo and ports in the Midwestern United States. Hanna Furnace Company, a subsidiary of M.A. Hanna Company, purchased the operation in 1915. Just weeks after the beginning of the Great Depression in 1929, several businesses involved in steel production merged their assets to form National Steel Corporation. M.A. Hanna transferred Hanna Furnace to National Steel, in exchange for stock in that company. The nearby Donner-Hanna Coke plant, also a subsidiary of M.A. Hanna, was transferred to National Steel at that time. Hanna Furnace Corporation, as it became known after the merger, operated at the site until the company closed in 1982. In the following years, the facility was partially demolished by a series of owners, and was left covered in debris. The City of Buffalo became owner of the property through bankruptcy proceedings in 2001. In recent years, the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation has assumed ownership. The BUDC completed demolition of the remaining structures and removed all the remaining debris. The property is now known as the Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park and is home to several businesses.

Asbestos was incorporated into many different materials used at Hanna Furnace, such as pipe covering, block insulation, gaskets, and refractory mortar. Employees and contractors at the Hanna Furnace facility were at risk for asbestos exposure. Exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer and other diseases.

Refractory mortar used in lining the blast furnaces, stoves, ladles, and runners at Hanna Furnace contained asbestos because of the mineral’s resistance to fire and high temperatures. Frequently, these linings needed to be repaired or rebuilt. The materials they were constructed of degraded over time, due to the extreme temperatures involved. Workers broke apart the firebrick and mortar, which caused asbestos fibers to become airborne. The lining was then rebuilt with new firebricks and mortar. Refractory mortar was manufactured as a dry powder, and was mixed with water in order to be applied. Asbestos shorts, a raw asbestos fiber that came in bags, were often added to the mortar during the mixing process for increased strength and durability. Pouring and mixing the dry powder caused clouds of asbestos-containing dust to become airborne. The refractory mortar was applied using a machine which sprayed the mixture through a hose. Workers in the vicinity were likely exposed to asbestos.

Asbestos was also used in the upkeep and maintenance of the facility. Water and steam pipes were insulated with asbestos-containing pipe covering. Boilers were covered in asbestos block insulation. Irregular surfaces and gaps in the insulation on pipes and boilers were covered in asbestos-containing insulating cement. Steam lines, pumps, and other plant machinery used asbestos rope and gaskets fortified with asbestos. Installing, removing, handling or disturbing any of these materials would cause asbestos fibers and dust to become suspended in the air. Once asbestos became airborne, it remained in the air for quite some time. After the asbestos dust settled, the movements of workers in the area stirred the dust back into the air, which placed even more workers at risk for asbestos exposure.

Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford, LLC represents former workers and retirees from Hanna Furnace in Buffalo, New York. In the process of representing these workers and their families, we have gathered a vast amount of information concerning the types of asbestos-containing materials to which our clients were exposed. This information allows us to assist our clients in bringing claims against the companies that manufactured and distributed these harmful products. If you or a loved one were once employed at the Hanna Furnace facility and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.