East Oakland metal pipe factory announces move to Texas amid lawsuits over cancer-causing toxins

East Oakland metal pipe factory announces move to Texas amid lawsuits over cancer-causing toxins
Photo Credit: AB&I Foundry
By Wesley Severson - Published on March 15, 2022.

A controversial metal foundry that has been sued for emitting toxic fumes across East Oakland now says that it is moving the 116-year-old operation to Tyler, Texas. AB&I Foundry makes cast iron pipes and pipe fittings for new buildings using recycled scrap metal and is one of the largest cast iron pipe makers in the U.S. AB&I Foundry has been the subject of ongoing scrutiny and lawsuits.

“After much deliberation, we came to the difficult decision that relocation of our operations from Oakland was the only course of action to ensure we can continue to serve our customers with high-quality pipe and pipe fittings,” AB&I President Michael Lowe said in a statement obtained by Bay Area News Group

The state sued the company earlier this year for not warning people about the release of hexavalent chromium around the Oakland Coliseum where it operates along San Leandro Street. There are 10 schools nearby by the huge facility. According to the state lawsuit, as reported last month by Oaklandside, AB&I Foundry has not made any effort to reduce its hexavalent chromium emissions which are known to cause cancer. 

Two months before the state lawsuit, AB&I was sued by the environmental group Communities for a Better Environment over accusations that the company failed to alert the community when emissions surpassed legal thresholds. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District recently conducted a Health Risk Assessment that found rates of cancer and asthma to be much higher in the households around the foundry. 

AB&I announced last year that it would be moving half of its Oakland workforce to East Texas sometime this year, but it now appears that no jobs will be spared here in Oakland. “We remain committed to working with our team members and community partners to help our 200 union workers either move with us or to secure new equally well-paying jobs locally,” Lowe told Bay Area News Group last month. 

According to the state, 85% of the households near AB&I’s East Oakland factory are poor and mostly Latino and Black. Communities for a Better Environment blasted AB&I’s choice to move to the Tyler, Texas area where much of the demographics are the same. “While the closure of AB&I Foundry will allow East Oakland to literally breathe a sigh of relief for the first time in over a century, it will be difficult to call this a win for environmental justice. AB&I and their parent company McWane Inc. are instead simply moving their toxic pollution and odors to another Black and brown community in Tyler, Texas,” Ernesto Arevalo with Communities for a Better Environment told Bay Area News Group. 

AB&I Foundry says that the closure of the East Oakland factory will happen in phases and that the move will be completed within a year. It’s unclear when the first stage of the move will start. Many people are hoping the state holds the company accountable for its clean-up of the factory site so it doesn’t end up skipping town leaving a huge, potentially toxic mess behind.