Res­i­dents fed up with ‘coffin­ing’ process

Do­fasco’s cool­ing process for hot iron sends dusty emis­sions into com­mu­nity

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - MARK MCNEIL mm­c­neil@thes­pec.com 905-526-4687 | @Markatthes­pec

It’s called “coffin­ing,” a process that steel­mak­ers use to cool ex­cess hot iron in out­door pits that sends gi­ant dark clouds into the sky.

And some of the peo­ple liv­ing be­neath those dusty emis­sions from ArcelorMit­tal Do­fasco say they are fed up with it.

“They should have put an end to the process years ago,” says Crown Point neigh­bour­hood res­i­dent Jochen Bezner, who is a mem­ber of a ArcelorMit­tal Do­fasco Com­mu­nity Li­ai­son Com­mit­tee.

“I think they should be do­ing more to deal with the emis­sions.”

Coffin­ing is done from time to time to man­age sur­plus molten iron or metal. It’s cooled off in pits to be heated and used later on in steel­mak­ing.

How­ever, at this time of year — be­cause of shut­downs for main­te­nance — coffin­ing is done more fre­quently, says com­pany spokesper­son Marie Ver­dun.

“Right now we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a longer than nor­mal main­te­nance pe­riod which has caused an in­crease in coffin­ing over the past two weeks,” she says.

The com­pany sent out a no­tice April 28 to li­ai­son com­mit­tee mem­bers and on so­cial me­dia say­ing “we may ex­pe­ri­ence an ex­cess of hot metal (liq­uid iron) from our blast fur­nace op­er­a­tions … Cof­fin beds will also be proac­tively main­tained to re­duce the risk and sever­ity of any po­ten­tial emis­sions if coffin­ing hot metal is re­quired.”

Since then, res­i­dents say they have no­ticed emis­sion prob­lems in par­tic­u­lar on May 6, 9 and be­fore the no­tice was is­sued on April 14.

Tiny par­ti­cles of dust from fac­tory emis­sions can cause or ag­gra­vate res­pi­ra­tory prob­lems — es­pe­cially for peo­ple with asthma or other lung con­di­tions.

Ver­dun says weather has been a fac­tor in wors­en­ing emis­sions due to the re­ac­tion of the “iron and wa­ter.”

“When the weather is wet it makes it even more dif­fi­cult — and, of course, we have had ex­cep­tional rain over the past week.”

Lynda Lukasik, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of En­vi­ron­men­tal Hamil­ton who also sits on the li­ai­son com­mit­tee, says the coffin­ing prob­lem at Do­fasco has dragged on for years and “we are still wait­ing an ef­fec­tive so­lu­tion to this prob­lem.”

Min­istry spokesper­son Gary Wheeler says the min­istry “has proac­tively is­sued var­i­ous or­ders in con­cert with site spe­cific stan­dard ap­provals with a view to re­duce emis­sions from AM Do­fasco’s op­er­a­tions over­time. These ini­tia­tives have tar­geted AM Do­fasco’s pri­mary op­er­a­tions in­clud­ing coke and iron mak­ing.”

Ver­dun says the com­pany is coffin­ing less than it used to. In 2016, the com­pany coffined five per cent of its ex­cess hot metal as op­posed to 10 per cent in 2006.

“We con­tinue to look at tech­nolo­gies and strate­gies to ad­dress ex­cess hot metal man­age­ment to re­duce vis­i­ble emis­sions,” she added. But res­i­dents say that’s not good enough. Liz Tobin, who lives in the Sher­man Hub neigh­bour­hood, moved to Hamil­ton from Toronto more than two years ago and had no idea that steel com­pany emis­sions would be an on­go­ing con­cern.

“It’s very frus­trat­ing that we con­tinue to have these is­sues hap­pen,” Tobin said. “We don’t seem to make much progress. If they can’t work within the guide­lines they should give se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion about whether they should con­tinue work­ing, frankly.”

Li­ai­son com­mit­tee mem­ber Bezner also moved here from Toronto in re­cent years.

“I rec­og­nize the air pol­lu­tion is a lot bet­ter than it was many years ago,” he said. “But it is still not good enough. No­body de­serves this.

“There are very bad odours com­ing in here ev­ery now and then,” Bezner added. “I can­not en­joy the out­doors. I can­not leave the win­dows open.

“I want those emis­sions to stop com­pletely. I think there have to be tech­ni­cal so­lu­tions to deal with it. It’s just a mat­ter of money. I don’t think money trumps health of cit­i­zens.”

LYNDA LUKASIK, SUBMITTED PHOTO

Brown clouds at Do­fasco from a so-called coffin­ing op­er­a­tion, in which hot metal is cooled out­doors in a gravel pit, on April 14.

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