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World Water Day: Alabama’s iron and steel manufacturing contributes to public and economic health

MONTGOMERY, AL  – World Water Day is March 22. In the context of today’s news, speaking about clean water and public health is more topical than usual, and today’s example is encouraging.

At the turn of the previous century, the time of my grandfather’s birth only 124 years ago, most people got their water from a well and used an outhouse. These were often near one another, contributing to the spread of disease.

At about the same time, the industrial revolution was in full force and thousands were flocking to cities for manufacturing jobs. Birmingham is known as The Magic City because her early years were so robust the city grew “like magic.”

The need for clean and sanitary public water and wastewater systems was the genesis of the cast iron pipe industry in Birmingham. The presence of necessary resources such as iron ore, coal, and limestone within our region made north central Alabama an ideal location. Cast iron pipe manufactured in Alabama the past 125 years has built public water systems and ensured public health all across America and even around the world. It’s not at all a stretch to say that clean water is the greatest advancement in public health in the history of mankind. I’m grateful and proud to have spent my career in such a noble and beneficial industry.

Today, modern ductile iron pipe is made in Birmingham, and steel used for water pipe and construction of water facilities is manufactured across Alabama. Instead of ore, today we recycle scrap and thereby contribute to sustainability in a significant manner. Iron pipe was sustainable before sustainability was cool.

Alabama’s iron and steel industry directly employs 14,900 manufacturing jobs and 76,388 indirect jobs providing a multi-billion-dollar payroll and tax base.

So, as you wash your hands with soap and water each hour, think of ductile iron and steel water pipe and the iron and steel industry here across our great state that manufactures it.

Maury D. Gaston is Chairman of the Alabama Iron and Steel Council, a council of Manufacture Alabama, and a Director and past Chairman of the state of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame. The AISC operates as an independent industry council of Manufacture Alabama, the state’s only trade association dedicated exclusively to manufacturers and their supplier/vendor partners. AISC member companies include AM/NS Calvert, AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe Company, CMC Steel, McWane, Inc., Nucor Steel, Outokumpu Stainless USA, SSAB Americas, U.S. Pipe & Foundry, United States Steel, Alabama Power Company, OMI-Bisco Refractories, O’Neal Manufacturing Services, Reno Refractories, Spire Alabama, Inc,, and Southern Alloy Corporation. Gaston is a mechanical engineering graduate of Auburn University and Manager of Marketing for American Cast Iron Pipe in Birmingham.