Incinerator smokestacks fall

A longtime monument to city fiscal mismanagement, was toppled today. A demolition crew imploded the three smoke stacks at the former trash burning power plant, on the south end of Columbus. WOSU’s Tamara Keith was there and prepared this report.

With several large booms, the 3 smoke stacks, 270 feet each of concrete and steel, crashed to the ground one after another.

Andy Jager is a blaster with Dykon Demolition Explosive Corporation.

“We drilled the stacks with approximately100 holes and loaded them with about 50 pounds of explosives and this morning we detonated them and they fell in the planned direction. Everything went pretty smooth,” he said.

The former trash burning power plant opened in 1983, at one point burning 44 tons of coal and 523 tons of trash daily to produce power for the city of Columbus. But there were problems almost from the start. It didn’t work as planned, bowling balls and panty hose stumped the system. Neighbors complained about pollution and eventually the Environmental Protection Agency stepped in. The plant was losing money and required expensive improvements. In 1994 the city and the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio shut it down. With dust from the demolition still hanging in the air, Mayor Michael Coleman told a crowd of community leaders and reporters that the smoke stacks represented a dark cloud over the city a financial mistake.

“This facility represented almost a half a billion dollars of taxpayer investment. It didn’t work and now we’re taking it down and we’re going to do something that will work for our community,” he said.

The city still owes more than $50 million dollars on bonds taken out to build the plant, a plant that has been dormant for more than a decade and will be fully demolished later this year. But Coleman says, it felt good to push the button that sent the smoke stacks tumbling down.

“I’m glad it’s down because it was symbolically not what I want Columbus to be known for. I want Columbus to be known as a green community, an environmentally safe community. Frankly the taking down of these stacks is a step up for the city of Columbus,” said Coleman.

Michael Long, executive director of the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio says he isn’t sure what will replace the plant, but he wants it to be environmentally friendly.

“We’re going to be working with the city to redevelop this into something that I hope will be green businesses, green industry,” he said.

On March 15th the plant’s main building will come down. It will be imploded as well. The company hired to do the demolition is actually paying the city 377-thousand dollars because they expect to make so much money from selling the scrap steel.