in the October 9, 2001 New York Times by James Glanz
Torn Steel, Cold Data of Salvage
When the twin towers
fell, the two buildings that had once been admired for their endless
structural and architectural complexity suddenly became a heartbreaking
mass grave, a symbol of terrorism's reach, and — at a coldly
physical level — 1.2 million tons of tangled debris.
But engineers and
government officials understood that there was value in being much
more specific and comprehensive about what materials lay in the
It was important,
for instance, to know as precisely as possible how much steel and
concrete was there if a plan for removing it was going to be devised
responsibly. That plan would allow the search and recovery effort
to proceed as quickly as crews at the site could work. And although
no lives could be saved directly with the plan, it would allow some
money to be recouped for a beleaguered city from the thousands of
tons of steel, copper and aluminum.
So computer programs
were designed, old blueprints were scoured and individual memories
were ransacked to rebuild it on paper, to determine how much steel
and concrete and gypsum and glass were there. What resulted was
the most detailed accounting of just what the World Trade Center
had been made of, down to the terrazzo flooring.
And out of those
early calculations has grown an intricate plan for removing, disposing
of and, in many cases, reusing the vast amounts of material that
crashed down with the trade center.
"In the grossest
terms, the process is very similar to what we would do if we were
going to design the trade center all over again," said Frank
Lombardi, chief engineer for the Port Authority of New York and
New Jersey, which built and owned six of the seven trade center
The effort is no
less complicated than the original construction.
piece of the trade center now has a prescribed destination and a
path to get there. Tracked at elaborately monitored checkpoints,
the materials are shuttled from cranes to trucks to docks in Manhattan
and Brooklyn and from there to investigation sites, landfills and
Nearby scrap recyclers
are already expanding their operations and have begun the job of
cutting, shearing, shredding and shipping the biggest volumes of
metals they have ever faced. Each of the twin towers contained some
78,000 tons of recyclable steel alone.
"It's a combination
of an emergency construction job, a major demolition job and an
emergency salvage and transportation job," said George Wittich,
a senior vice president at Weeks Marine Inc. of Cranford, N.J.,
the company whose barges and dockside cranes are moving the large
pieces of structural steel from the trade center.
figures have not been disclosed, industry experts say that recycling
the steel and other metals of the trade center could net a few tens
of millions of dollars. In typical controlled demolitions of other
buildings, many of the other materials — even concrete, which
can be crushed to gravel — can be recovered and recycled.
But at the trade
center, "it's all mixed together into one big soup," said
Wayne Rawluk, vice president of the demolition division at Pacific
Blasting and Demolition in Burnaby, British Columbia. "It has
no value at that point."
The recycled steel
could end up as anything from wire to refrigerators to automobile
fenders or even I- beams for new skyscrapers, said Bob Kelman, senior
vice president and general manager at Hugo Neu Schnitzer East of
Jersey City, one of the scrap dealers that the city has contracted
to do the work.
it will be made into a series of towers that are as proud as the
ones that came down," Mr. Kelman said last week as he hurried
among piles of mangled girders that had been delivered from the
trade center to his firm's scrapyard.
the potentially unwieldy cleanup project, officials needed to estimate
the dimensions of the task they faced. Early numbers emerged from
a computer program that the Army Corps of Engineers uses to gauge
the debris created by natural disasters like hurricanes.
to the World Trade Center, the calculations predicted that the site
contained 308,900 tons of steel, 351,000 tons of concrete and a
total of 1,051,000 tons of debris over all, said Beau Hanna, an
Army Corps expert on debris.
For a more accurate
assessment, the city and the Port Authority turned to Leslie E.
Robertson Associates, one of the structural engineering firms involved
in building the trade center. The firm took out the original plans
and quickly started adding up the ingredients of the World Trade
Center floor by floor, said William Faschan, a partner at the firm
came with a striking level of detail. It estimated that each of
the twin towers contained 3,881 tons of steel reinforcing in the
concrete floor slabs; 47,453 tons of vertical steel columns; 8,462
tons of aluminum and glass on the exterior walls; 2,531 tons of
various ceiling materials; 4,218 tons of flooring; and 31,350 tons
of partitions or walls.
Added up, Mr. Lombardi
of the Port Authority said, the total came to about 1,176,000 tons
of debris, including about 285,000 tons of steel. After some rounding,
the very rough figure of 1.2 million tons of debris was born.
The raw size of
those numbers led to the development of a mazelike, if tightly controlled,
system of transportation, disposal and recycling. And the journey
of the center's remains can perhaps best be appreciated in following
the route the steel takes, one that could wind up in Korea or China.
Last week a quick
succession of flatbed trucks, each carrying 10 to 30 tons of often
charred and twisted steel beams, arrived at just one of the relay
points in that system, Pier 6 on the eastern edge of Lower Manhattan.
A huge floating
crane marked Weeks 504 grabbed the steel with a clamshell bucket
and dropped the load into one of the two barges moored on either
side of it. Behind the crane, a tugboat waited to tow the barges
to yet another relay point, a Port Authority pier in Brooklyn.
a trucker with a ponytail and two diamond-stud earrings, explained
that every truck leaving ground zero with steel passes through a
checkpoint where the truck is washed with high-pressure hoses, men
with torches lop off any protruding pieces of steel and investigators
examine the load.
get your manifests," Mr. Randazzo said — two triplicate
sets of paperwork to track the load, one filled out by a construction
contractor and one by a member of the National Guard — "and
then you're on your way."
The manifests are
intended to prevent fraud and help the city gauge progress in clearing
the wreckage. By 7 a.m. that Thursday morning, Oct. 4, exactly 1,688
truckloads had been loaded into barges at the pier, according to
records kept by Weeks.
A blue barge, actually
a garbage scow on loan from the city's Sanitation Department, was
the first to fill up. By measuring its draft, or depth in the water,
dockworkers determined that it held 443 tons of steel. The tugboat,
the Kathleen, was lashed to the barge and it headed to the relay
point, a Port Authority pier at the foot of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.
have a barge to load," said Rudy Wohl, a Weeks port captain,
who is along for the ride. "We don't want a slowdown."
Mr. Wohl said that
Weeks had 23 barges at work in the effort, 13 of its own and 10
loaners from the Sanitation Department. A spokeswoman for the department,
Kathy Dawkins, said a total of 64 sanitation barges were being used
in the effort at various piers.
When it reached
the Port Authority pier, the Kathleen dropped off the loaded barge,
picked up one of three waiting empty barges and immediately headed
back to Pier 6 in Manhattan. A second tug would pick up the steel
and tow it to one of two scrap recyclers, either Metal Management
of Newark or Hugo Neu Schnitzer East.
The docks at Hugo
Neu Schnitzer East, in the Claremont Channel in Jersey City, reveal
the next leg of the journey. With a clear view of the altered skyline
of Manhattan, a grappler on steel treads lifts beams out of another
blue sanitation barge and adds it to a pile of wreckage that already
stretches some 600 feet, reaching 30 or 40 feet high in places.
"This is a
job we'd all rather not have," said Mr. Kelman, the Hugo Neu
vice president, standing on a lip of the barge. Still, he said,
"I'm preparing myself, if I have to, to handle 200,000 tons."
Mr. Kelman said
the effort had required major expansions of his company's equipment
and work force, mainly by hiring subcontractors, both at the Claremont
site and at the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island, where about
40,000 tons of heavy steel was hauled in the first days after the
A few steps from
the grappler, a team of men with torches were already cutting beams
into pieces five or six feet long. It is in that form that the material
will be sent to steelmakers who will melt it down in huge ovens
to make new products.
Although both the
city and the scrap dealers refused to disclose financial details
of their contract, William Heenan, president of the Steel Recycling
Institute in Pittsburgh, said the steel scrap could be worth roughly
$80 to $100 a ton when sold to a steelmaker. He said the market
for scrap was typically volatile and that the dealers were taking
a risk in buying so much at once.
The steel is not
quite all that the city is likely to recycle. The much smaller amounts
of aluminum and copper, Mr. Heenan said, "will be just as coveted
as the steel." Those metals can often bring $600 to more than
$1,000 a ton, Mr. Heenan said.
But those materials,
which are tracked just as assiduously as the steel is, first go
by barge to the Fresh Kills landfill as a part of the "mixed
debris" that investigators carefully check for crime evidence
and personal effects.
Out on the tug
Kathleen, Mr. Wohl mourned the twin towers but praised the way in
which the multifarious public and private entities had created the
complex recovery effort.
Pausing to squint
at the empty spot in the skyline, he said, "I guess you could
say it's man at its worst that brought about man at its best around
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