The local United Steelworkers union and its 2,000 members at the plant had hoped for a steelmaker would buy and restart the mill, idled after owner RG Steel filed for bankruptcy in May. But no steelmaking companies showed up to bid at the Tuesday afternoon auction in New York. Bethlehem Steel filed for bankruptcy protection in 2001. Sparrows Point has had four owners since then.
Hilco Trading LLC, based in Illinois, dismantles closed industrial sites, sells off retail inventory and recently auctioned off equipment from bankrupt solar panel firm Solyndra.
Sparrows Point was one of Baltimore County's largest employers before the mass layoff, but it was far leaner in recent years than it was at its height under Bethlehem Steel. Together, the company's mill and shipbuilding complex in Sparrows Point employed about 30,000 people during World War II, producing hundreds of ships.
The mill sits on more than 2,400 acres at a prime location, south of Interstate 695 on a peninsula that juts into the Patapsco River. But the area is far from pristine. More than a century of steel making and finishing operations have resulted in perhaps the most complex environmental cleanup site in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The U.S. Justice Department said in a court filing last week on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency that the federal government would object to any buyer without the wherewithal to continue mandated efforts to find and remediate problems. (Baltimore Sun, 8/8/2012)