Responsible Water Use

Water is integral to Schnitzer’s business in several significant ways. We use it for cooling in our steelmaking and shredding operations, for dust suppression in our metals and auto yards, and for fire hazard prevention and response at all facilities. Scrap and vehicles are stored outdoors, which means we must also manage the effects of stormwater that passes through our yards on its way to local waterways.

In the context of climate change and water security risks globally, we are taking steps to assess our potential future water management risks and monitor current water management performance. Currently, the availability and quality of supply water to our operations is not considered a significant risk because all our sites are located within the U.S. (including Puerto Rico) and Western Canada. We annually invest capital to improve our overall water management and conservation capabilities.

As air quality emissions controls evolve, our water usage requirements may increase, making ongoing efficiency improvements even more important. Our water strategy focuses on maximizing direct use of recycled water, reducing reliance on freshwater, and decreasing the overall amount of water we use. Recent enhancements include a new cooling-water system for our electric arc furnace, which represents 58 percent of our total water withdrawal but has an 80 percent water re-use rate.

Total Water Withdrawal1
(Cubic Meters)

1 This graph shows normalized values against the sum of metric tons of finished steel sold,
ferrous scrap shipped, and non-ferrous scrap shipped.

2 FY16–FY18 values represent restatements to adjust for reconciled water withdrawal volumes.

Managing Stormwater Runoff

Managing stormwater is essential to preserving the quality of natural resources within the communities in which we operate. During fiscal 2020, we invested $8 million in environmental controls that help us better capture and clean stormwater.

Over the past year, we completed the design of new stormwater treatment systems for six Pick-n-Pull facilities in California. We are in the process of purchasing equipment for these systems, with construction set to begin at our Oakland, California facility in early fiscal 2021. Each treatment system is unique to the site; tailored to its geography, property size, and surface types present. The systems use a combination of technologies—from electrocoagulation, chemical treatment, media (rock, sand, and carbon) filtration, and expanded retention capacity.

A new installation at our Moss Landing, California Pick-n-Pull makes use of many of these approaches. The facility is located at the edge of Elkhorn Slough, a marine conservation area that is home to many sensitive species—making it especially important that discharge limits be met. Four retention ponds were installed on site, combined with separators for pretreatment, precisely engineered soil, and native plants that maximize filtration. The treatment system was installed in consultation with local Native American tribes, who advised on how to ensure minimal disruption to the surrounding area.