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Bethlehem Steel Property Owner to Address Residential Cleanup Costs, More Sampling

By November 30, 2016October 7th, 2021No Comments
T.J. Pignataro
November 30, 2016

Great Lakes Industrial Development, the property owner of the former Bethlehem Steel building that burned earlier this month, will help affected residents with cleanup claims and with an additional analysis of the soot and ash that spewed from the blaze, officials told The Buffalo News.

The company made the commitment Wednesday afternoon to two state agencies, the Health Department and Department of Environmental Conservation.

“The only certainty right now is we are at the very beginning of what is going to be a very long road,” said Phil Pantano, a spokesman for Great Lakes Industrial Development.

The conflagration – fueled by recycled plastics, boats, antique vehicles and other items in winter storage – started around 7 a.m., Nov. 9 and burned for days. It also forced the evacuation of residents from the nearby Bethlehem Park neighborhood who returned to find their homes covered in toxic soot, ash and debris from the fire.

State officials said Great Lakes agreed to provide:

A hotline for residents affected by the blaze to call.
A letter to impacted residents.
Contact information on the company’s website “to facilitate a speedy recovery.”

Affected residents, particularly those in the nearby Bethlehem Park neighborhood, can contact the company to report property cleanup claims at 207-8685.

Great Lakes officials said Wednesday’s announcement was motivated by a desire to come forward and help neighbors who found themselves in just as through a predicament through no fault of their own, however, cautiously pointed out it was not admitting liability in the blaze.

“We have felt the gut punch of this devastating accidental fire,” Chris Wietig, special projects director at Great Lakes Industrial Development, explained in a statement. “We have lost half our facility, lost of our tenants and well over 120 jobs have been disrupted – losses we will not likely recover.”

Wietig added: “Having said that, we also know that its impact did not stop at our property boundaries.”

That impact included stories from residents of the dozens of homes in nearby Bethlehem Park that were covered, or in some cases filled, with soot after the nearby fire.

Some wiped soot off of interior walls, kitchen counters, even baby cribs. Others power-washed the exterior or their homes and lawns.

Some also suffered health impacts from the lingering toxic smoke in their neighborhood after the fire that included respiratory illnesses.

“The fire is out, but community residents living around the Bethlehem Steel plant are struggling with its aftermath in their own homes,” Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement.
The wreckage of the Bethlehem Steel buildings in Lackawanna that were demolished by fire. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

The wreckage of the Bethlehem Steel buildings in Lackawanna that were demolished by fire. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Seggos lauded Great Lakes’ efforts “for agreeing to provide peace of mind for its Lackawanna neighbors.”

He said his agency, along with state and county health officials, will continue providing updated information about “the nature and extent of the smoke plume.”

The fire consumed about four out of the nine large bays in the complex, or about half of the one million square foot facility.

Its cause remains under investigation by fire officials in Lackawanna.

Wietig said the company has “no legal responsibility” to respond to requests for help from neighbors affected by the fire, it intends to help.

“As we continue our uphill climb regarding work, jobs, debris cleanup, and rebuilding at the site…we look forward to working with the state to help our community and our Lackawanna neighbors in responding to these claims,” Wietig said.

Besides the hotline, Great Lakes will send residents more information in coming days.

That information will also be available on the company’s website at

Great Lakes moved into the long-vacant Bethlehem Steel building at the corner of Route 5 and Lincoln Avenue in 2010.

“In our eyes, it’s been a great success story the company’s been proud of,” Pantano said.

What started as an idle remnant of an industrial era gone by in Lackawanna was teeming with a dozen tenants and more than 120 jobs.

It also added millions in tax revenue to the local economy, Pantano said.

He added: “Now, we have to start that moving forward process on having to get back to that.”