I love big abandoned industry & Abandoned Guterl Specialty Steel was definitely big EPIC!
in August of 2019 I explored the Abandoned Guterl Specialty Steel/Simonds Saw Mill. I headed across the boarder into the United States with several locations to explore as well the plan of sleeping inside an abandoned insane asylum! One of the locations on our list was an abandoned steel mill which we had known about for many years but never took the time to actually get over there & explore it. That was about to change!
The plant dates back to the early 1900`s when operations moved from Chicago to Lockport where the plant would be powered cheap electricity being produced by nearby Niagara Falls. The first steel produced at the new plant was in January of 1911. 11 years later the company changed its name to Simonds Saw and Steel Company & had approximately 2,200 employees. After just 25 years they stopped producing saws all together.
Between 1946 & 1956 the plant rolled two radioactive materials, uranium & thorium, on a nine-acre portion of the 70-acre site for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. The company rolled uranium billets into rods that were shipped off-site via rail cars. Some 25 million & 35 million pounds of natural uranium metal & approximately 30,000 to 40,000 of thorium metal were processed at the site, according to an Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) fact sheet.
The production of uranium metal for fabrication into slugs for fueling Hanford production reactors. Simonds also rolled thorium metal whose most likely use was irradiation in Hanford reactors for the weapons program.
During all operations from 1948 through 1956, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was responsible for providing radiological monitoring & safety guidance and assistance. Residue from the operation was returned to the AEC or NLO. The DOE’s Niagara Falls Storage Site (formerly Lake Ontario Ordnance Works) was used for interim storage of the materials between processing operations and use. Protective measures employed at the site included the use of hoods & dust collection equipment over the 16-inch rolling mill stands, & catch pans in the mill pits to collect material from each rolling operation. The mill area was vacuumed after every batch of 16 ingots, & the shipping area was vacuumed daily.
Area decontamination was performed, clean steel plates placed over the area, and a second radiological survey was performed in December 1958 to verify decontamination was effective. In October 1976, at the request of DOE Headquarters, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) performed another radiological survey to determine the status of the property relative to current radiological release guidelines. The ORNL survey revealed that most of the residual contamination remaining from the uranium and thorium rolling operations was confined to the areas inside & immediately outside of Buildings 6 & 8.
In August 1982, GSSC filed for Chapter 11 (bankruptcy) protection & in March 1984 Allegheny International (now known as Allegheny Ludlum Corporation) bought out the assets of the GSSC. The purchase by Allegheny Ludlum Corporation included the entire site with the exception of two regions, classified as the excised property and the landfill. The excised property is approximately 3.6 hectares (ha [ 9 acres]), consists of a chain-link fenced area which surrounds all of the buildings that existed during the rolling operations from 1948 through 1956, and includes the adjacent exterior land areas. The landfill region was originally owned and used by Simonds Saw & Steel Company from 1962 to 1978, and was subsequently owned and used by GSSC from 1978 to 1980. The landfill area was used for the disposal of slag, baghouse flue dust, foundry sand, waste oils and greases, and miscellaneous plant rubbish. The landfill is not lined or covered, and although its surface has been regraded, ponding occurs and surface runoff is uncontrolled. The landfill region is currently a New York State superfund site.
Since 2012, ACE has been monitoring the groundwater below the site, groundwater seeping into the Erie Canal and canal surface water. Since the groundwater there is not potable, the ACE stated, there is no risk to human health. Although some groundwater seeps into the Erie Canal have shown uranium levels slightly exceeding the (maximum contaminant levels, the uranium would be significantly diluted by waters of the canal,” reads the ACE fact sheet. “Even at that undiluted level, it should not have an adverse impact to someone using the water for recreational (not drinking water) purposes. Although, potential lifetime cancer risks & yearly radiological dose rates received by someone trespassing in Building 8 (for 4 hours a week for 6 months out of the year for 10 years) could exceed acceptable targets, the actual radiological doses received by the Corps & contractor investigators in that building were below health and safety monitoring detection limits,” an ACE fact sheet said.
Today the plant sits rotting away & in terrible shape. Fences have fallen down & it`s not uncommon to see several deer while on the grounds & even inside the buildings. There are numerous class actions for former workers to receive compensation for both asbestos & radiation related diseases & although the plant is contaminated, it posed no risk to my health. There are plans to cleanup the site sometime starting in 2020. This was really an amazing explore that held quite a bit on interesting history.
17 thoughts on “Abandoned Guterl Specialty Steel/Simonds Saw & Steel”
The are an amazing number of tiny radioactive sites scattered around the country, left over from nuclear programs. I found one for a client this year. They couldn’t figure out why a tract of federal land had a 1/2 mile “no surface occupancy” buffer zone around it.
BTW, superfund priority is determined by a risk assessment. In order for there to be a risk to the public, there have to be people exposed to the environmental contamination. No people breathing contaminated air, or exposed to contaminated soil or water = low/no priority for cleanup.
Most cities have several sites that the residents aren’t aware of.
Thanks for the info!
what an awesome video, just loved it
Thanks so much!!!
Wow Thank you for the video! My grandfather, father, and many uncles all worked there! My dad was raised in a home just down the street which my family still owns! Many men developed cancer proven to be as a direct result of working in this exact factory !
I’ve never been inside ! Thanks again for posting
I ran the press crane, there are no pictures of the press. Is it still there?
I’m still alive age 61- worked there from age 18 to 25. I do have a death benifit. I understand conzark (electro mill) is still working next to the press crane area. Way to many plants have closed as jobs went overseas.
Hi Eric, As far as I know the press it still there as it was located in the newer part of the property that A-L re opened. I’m sure the film crew was not allowed in there since that building is still in use. I seem to remember another Farina…was he a carpenter? It was a long time ago, 1970.
That was before my time but I’m guessing you’re referring to the press that had infront or near the 3 annealing furnaces. Which now we call the stripper crane. I run that everyday I operate the 3 consarc vacuum arc remelt furnaces. They put in back in 07. Yeah film crew def wouldn’t be allowed in. We do a lot of government contracts now. Around 75% of our work is aerospace materials now
I currently work here. In the Allegheny owned buildings. I’m sure I’ll have cancer from being on this site
Let’s hope not!
I worked for Simonds on the 16 inch bar mill from 3/69 to 8/70, then again in Maintenance for about a year when Allegheny Ludlum took over the newer portion of the plant. I plan to study the many images and try to identify some of the departments. From what you have shown, the only mills remaining are the 10 inch, 16 inch, and the band mill. (the one with huge rope drive belt) The turbines you reference are actually electric motors to run the mills. The 16 inch was powered by a 500 hp General Electric.The machine nuts we removed for roll changes required a 6 inch open end wrench about 6 feet long. Some of the mills deemed to be safe were sold and moved to a new facility in Akron, NY. It looks much different with most of the mills gone. Thanks for the great documentary!
I worked for Simonds Steel & Guterl Steel for 10 years from 1973 to 1983. I started out working on the 16″ rolling mill for 1 1/2 years then went to the Cold Roll department for about 2 years. After that I went into the Mechanical Maintenance department as a Millwright apprentice then on to a Millwright till the plant closed. It was a great place to work and I worked with a lot of good people over the years there. While working in the Mechanical Maintenance department, you got into every nook & cranny on the facility over the years. I’m presently 67 yrs. old and still in fairly good health. From “Rich’s” above comment’s, I believe he is right about 10″ , 16″ and the Band mill are the only one’s still in place. I would also like to Thank You for the great pictures and documentary!
It’s good to hear from you Jeff. If you lasted for that long on the 16 7nch mill, it says a lot about your stamina. :>) My father was head of maintenance from 1965 until he retired so you might have had some knowledge of that. One of my friends also had a father in the electrical maintenance department. (“Joe” or Duane R.. I was a rougher on the 16″ mill but also worked most of the other jobs on that mill at times as I worked my way up.. I am glad to hear you are still in good health, as I am also. I am 3 or 4 years older than you are. I expect you probably met my dad, “Corky.” He passed away in February, 2010. It was an “interesting” place to work, for sure. The pictures don’t tell the whole story, and it is sad to see what remains. I still have some roots in Lockport. RPM
Hello to Jeff and Rich. I moved back to the area after being away for 27 years. I am still intrigued with the Simonds and think of it as the only real job I have ever had. Jeff, I just remembered your name and worked with you, I was a welder and you were an apprentice Millwright. I was at your house in Kenmore. Rich, your dad was our boss.
Clyde Ferguson and I were thinking about jumping the fence and checking it out a long time ago, but decided that it was a bad idea. Love you guys and our memories.
Hello Donald and Jeff, Thanks for the messages. Simonds was quite an interesting place to work back in 1969 and 1970. Dave Delange started the same day as me, but of course he soon ended up in the office as personnel manager.While working for AL more recently when they re-opened part of the plant I worked with Dave Eick and Reg Buri in maintenance for a year or so on mid-nights. You guys might have known them. I was not a fan of the night shift, and they wanted me to stay on it, so I had to leave for a day job. Glad to hear you didn’t jump the fence. :>) I had to go over there once while working for AL and it was pretty depressing as documented in these videos. Take care!
Hey guys, I currently work in the plant. I’ve been here 12 years. Rich Manny I’ve def heard your name from some of the old timers that are now retired. Eickd name a lot too. Reggi was a great guy. 1 in a million. I got to know a lot of those old timers before the majority of them retired in 2015ish. Burt Malcolm, Jeff Gmerek, Jim Calos, Reggi Buri, Harrison brothers, Tom Mayer, Mike Schaffert, Dewey, Mike Swan. Miss those guys. Used to love sitting on breaks hearing all about the good days. There’s a book out about the whole history of the mill. I guy named Lou wrote it. His father worked for SS&S back in the 60’s.
Hello to everyone interested in the old Simonds mill site, FYI: An announcement was made yesterday that over 100 million in funding will be available to start cleaning up the site so if you want to get a look at the old buildings from Ohio street in Lockport this summer might be the last chance. According to what I read in the article from the Lockport paper, the radioactive material was rolled into rods so it was probably on the 16 inch and 10 inch mills which I think are still on site. A lot of the other equipment was removed years ago, probably for scrap. I had always heard from various sources that most of it went through the 16 inch. From there it could have gone to the 10 inch to make smaller diameter rods. I will look for that book “Men of Steel” by Lou R. I think it is available on Amazon.