Residents near the former steel mill are filing a class action lawsuit after experiencing health problems after the fire.
More than thirty people who lived near the former Bethlehem steel mill have joined a class action lawsuit seeking damages after the four-day fire in 2016. The lawsuit was filed against Great Lakes Industrial Development LLC, which bought the Bethlehem Steel building years ago, and Great Lakes tenant, Industrial Materials Recycling LLC.
Lead plaintiff, Ashley Torres, said her newborn child, Penelope, suffered breathing difficulties as a result of the fire, while another child died of brain cancer in 2019 claims the event “perpetuated the environmental threats that caused the death of Torres’ mother, Earlene Wozniak” who lived with them. She died of throat cancer in 2019. Torres and her children had “wheezing, palpitations and watery eyes,” said Ashley while trying to clear their home.
“By the time Torres was able to move to the town of Collins, 102 Pine St. had lost about $ 30,000 in value,” said the lawsuit, which listed damages that many others in the area also reported to lawyer Jeanne M. Vinal had reported to Erie County lawmakers. Part of the damage in the lawsuit is intended to cover the cost of repairs to property that is not covered by insurance claims.
Photo by Raquel Raclette on Unsplash
The lawsuit accuses the defendants of not having a fire extinguishing system. A “sprinkler system was not required because Great Lakes had made no changes to the building,” said Lackawanna Fire Commissioner Ralph Galanti when the incident occurred. The building had passed the inspection two years earlier in 2014.
“Some people have had injuries, including cancer and other injuries, acute types of injuries. Some people had their siding melted down; Your shingles are blown away, ”said Vinal. “The building was built before building codes existed, so the building codes may not have legally required them to do anything, but they do need to be reasonably prudent for the safety of others and they didn’t have a fire suppressor here. I don’t think it would have cost them that much to do it, and they decided not to. “
In court documents filed for another case, Great Lakes stated that the company itself was a victim of the fire. In 2016, the company announced to the State Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Environmental Protection that it would “help affected residents with cleaning costs and analyze soot and ash”.
Even before the fire, the area seems almost cursed to be linked to breathing problems and certain types of cancer. Those linked to the plant have filed asbestos for years after developing significant lung problems. Thousands of Bethlehem steel retirees have sought compensation for former employees of the Department of Energy and its contractors as part of a federal program, and local convention officials have long called for an extension of the timeframe allowed by the program. It’s hard to tell if there were asbestos problems when the fire started and plant matter was dispersed into the air.
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