NEW YORK An ongoing
investigation into a March 29 fire at Alcoa Inc.s Massena
West aluminum plant in upstate New York led to the discovery of
asbestos in the facilitys ceiling.
A spokesman for the Occupational
Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) confirmed it was
conducting two separate investigations into the fire and the
asbestos, but declined to discuss specifics as both
investigations are open. He added that it was too early to
estimate when the inspections might be completed.
A spokeswoman for
Pittsburgh-based Alcoa confirmed there is asbestos in the
roofing material of the casthouse, adding that the company is
doing everything it can to ensure its employees
"All safety precautions are
being taken to ensure the health and safety of our employees,"
she told AMM. "A significant portion of the casthouse
remains closed to ensure employee safety."
Alcoa is testing debris samples,
and when samples in areas with no structural concerns test
negative those areas are cleared for re-entry, she added.
The March fire led the
Pittsburgh producer to halt billet and cast rod production
entirely (AMM, April 2). Alcoa resumed partial billet
casting late last week, the spokeswoman said, but it
doesnt have a timeline for when full production will
"While a significant portion of
the casthouse still remains closed due to structural integrity
issues, Alcoa is focusing on getting accessible casting
complexes up and running as safely and quickly as possible,"
This latest discovery has both
billet and cast-rod market participants concerned that it will
take longer for Massena West to return to full production,
which would make already tight markets even more so.
"(Alcoa) may be asked to strip
everything down," one source said. "(Rod and billet) market
tightness will get worse. Losing Massena West is a
"Now it will take much more time
to bring Massena West (to full) production because Alcoa will
have to remove the asbestos from the casthouse. Its a
health and safety issue," a second source said, adding that he
doesnt expect Massena West to resume full production
until the fall at the earliest.
Massena Wests smelter,
which has a capacity of 135,000 tonnes per year, wasnt
affected by the fire and continues to produce molten metal.
Although it stopped billet and cast rod production entirely,
the casthouse continued to produce P1020 sow (AMM,
April 5). In addition, sources say Alcoa increased the amount
of molten metal sent to Atlanta-based Novelis Inc.s
Oswego rolling mill three hours south in New York
(AMM, April 9).
AMM subsequently learned that the discovery of the
asbestos had been made during the initial investigation into
the March 29 fire and that it had already been factored into
the companys undisclosed timeframe for a return to
production. Nothing has changed. The asbestos abatement
has already been figured into all timelines for production thus
far, a spokeswoman told AMM, adding that the asbestos
finding should not further delay the restart in any way. Alcoa
has given a restart timeline to its customers but it has not
been made public.