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Cascade Steel Rolling Mills

The Cascade Steel Rolling Mill was founded in 1968 as a facility for utilizing recycled metal. The plant is located in McMinnville, Oregon, near Portland. The site is accessible by highway, and steel output can easily be shipped via the Willamette River to the Columbia, and then on to coastal ports.

The Plant

The facility is located on more than 80 acres near Portland, Oregon. The mill uses recycled steel to produce a wide range of hot-rolled products such as reinforcing bar (rebar), coiled reinforcing bar, wire rod, merchant bar and other specialty products. The mill has access to rail transport and is close to freeways and deep-draft marine terminals on the Willamette River for shipment of finished goods.

The Manufacturing Process

The mill employs a 108-ton electric arc furnace to melt down scrap metal and recast it. Molten steel is poured from the arc furnace and sent to a refining furnace where chemical adjustments can be made to the material. It is here that special alloys or grades of steel that are not in production at other mills can be made.

The finished molten steel is cast into billets, which can then be rolled and formed into any desired shape prior to being cut into a finished product. The facility produced 802,000 short tons of steel billets in 2008.

Equipment at the Mill

The Cascade Steel Rolling Mill operates two computerized rolling mills. This computerization allows for more precision and added efficiency. Billets produced in the furnaces are reheated in natural gas furnaces in order to be more malleable when rolled and pressed.

Asbestos and Steel Mills

For the majority of the last century, various forms of asbestos were chosen as a building material in cases where flames or excessive heat was a danger. Steel foundries such as Cascade Steel Rolling Mill, therefore, were usually made with materials that contained asbestos. Resistance to electrical current is perhaps a less well-known property of asbestos. Since steel processing not only involves extremely high temperatures but also utilizes large amounts of electricity, asbestos could be found throughout nearly all steel smelters. As well, asbestos' resistance to caustic chemicals meant it was useful in lab equipment, bench and counter tops and safety clothes. Asbestos, however, carried a major downside that was either not known or sometimes deliberately ignored: serious and often lethal diseases were caused by asbestos exposure.

Much of this asbestos was chrysotile. Corporate interests for a number of years claimed that chrysotile was the "good asbestos" - even in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary. Used for many years in the form of asbestos-containing transite in steel plants across the nation, chrysotile - often mixed with brown or blue asbestos - was eventually disallowed as a construction material in the 1970s.

Asbestos transite could be laminated and sprayed onto pipes and ductwork in the same way cement could. As long as asbestos transite was solid, this form of asbestos posed no immediate risk. With age, however, transite with asbestos-containing material (ACM) becomes prone to becoming powdery, enabling microscopic fibers to flake off into the atmosphere. Asbestos in this condition is called friable, or able to be reduced to powder by hand pressure alone.

Why Is Friable Asbestos a Problem?

When they are friable, asbestos fibers are readily dispersed in the environment. Breathing asbestos fibers can result in diseases such as cancer. Another unusual, and generally lethal, asbestos-related disease is mesothelioma. The pleural variety of mesothelioma cancer, which affects the lining between the lungs and the chest cavity, is the most prevalent. Pericardial and peritoneal mesothelioma result from ingesting fibers of asbestos, which is likely if the microscopic particles float in the air and land on food or in beverages.

In the past few decades medical researchers have discovered much information about the risks that accompany being exposed to asbestos, and therefore there are stringent guidelines regulating its use. When smelters like Cascade Steel Rolling Mill were constructed, however, asbestos was more common. And even now, asbestos from long ago can cause problems if it is mishandled during demolition projects.

Asbestos Exposure - a Hidden Danger

One of the insidious aspects of exposure to asbestos is the associated illnesses can take many, many years to appear - frequently decades after a worker has left the employer. The symptoms of asbestosis and asbestos cancer - a chronic cough, pain in the chest and difficulty breathing - can easily be confused with the symptoms of other conditions. It is extremely important, therefore, that folks who were employed by or lived around sites such as Cascade Steel Rolling Mill tell their health care professionals about the possibility of exposure to asbestos. Such information can help physicians make a timely diagnosis; especially with mesothelioma cancer, the sooner it is diagnosed, the higher the odds of survival or at the least of improved quality of life.

Sources

Sources

Cascade Steel - Company Profile
http://www.cascadesteel.com/company_profile.aspx

Goliath: Business Knowledge on Demand - Cascade Steel Rolling Mills
http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/product-compint-0000301428-page.html

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/EHSRM/ASB/acmimages3.html

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal
http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/EHSRM/HAZEXCEPTIONS/a.html

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