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Bethlehem Steel complex has long history

The Lackawanna steel plant made iron and steel for 82 years, 60 of those under the banner of Bethlehem Steel.

The steel mill provided good-paying jobs for high school graduates and dropouts alike. Employment peaked in 1965 at 20,000, with the company paying more than 75 percent of the taxes in Lackawanna, and a significant amount in nearby Hamburg, where the company also had operations.

[Massive fire engulfs former Bethlehem Steel buildings]

Production peaked in 1973, but the company eventually concluded the plant was obsolescent, and it didn't want to spend the money to meet state and federal air and water pollution regulations. At the same time, profits fell as foreign competition increased. That led the company to move most of its operations to Burns Harbor, Ind., in 1983, devastating the community it left behind.

Coke production continued until 2001, and Bethlehem Steel continued a galvanized steel finishing plant several years longer. A small steel-making operation purchased by ArcelorMittal Lackawanna LLC closed in 2009.

The three connected buildings on fire near Lincoln Avenue and Route 5 are the former Anneal building, Skin Mill and Anneal 2 warehouse. The property is part of the Steel Works Industrial Park owned by Great Lakes Industrial Development.

The Bethlehem Steel plant was named a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1988.  The state later declared it an inactive hazardous waste site, indicating a potentially significant threat to human health and the environment existed.


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