Love them or hate them, the cooling towers of the now shuttered Brayton Point Power Station will meet their demise Saturday.
Many have long looked forward to the towers’ destruction. For Fall River and Somerset residents living along the shores of Mount Hope Bay, the towers have represented an unwelcome obstruction to their otherwise pristine views. However, Saturday’s festivities are likely to draw more than just celebratory locals. The implosion of the towers, which each stand at 500 feet tall, will mark a world record, according to the property’s owner. Their demolition will represent the largest cooling towers ever demolished, Commercial Development Company says.
It will arguably also be the coolest thing in all of New England happening that morning, so prepare for crowds.
The demolition will commence at 8 a.m. and is expected to last approximately 10 seconds. Two minutes prior to the implosion, two long sirens will be set off to indicate the start of a two-minute countdown. This will be followed by a series of short siren blasts one minute prior to the implosion. When the chimneys on Brayton Point were demolished last month, these sirens were loud enough to be heard from across the water in Fall River.
As far as the sound of the implosion itself, the nearest residences are expected to hear it at roughly 135 decibels, which demolition crews describe as being similar to a thunder clap.
In an effort to capitalize on this once-in-a-lifetime spectacle, several waterfront businesses are hosting “watch parties” on Saturday and charging admission. Included among these catered vantage points are The Cove and Barrett’s Waterfront in Fall River.
Various property owners and residents are also hosting private implosion celebrations on porches and backyard patios all along the edge of the bay. Residents of The Landing at South Park in Fall River have organized an “Implosion Party” that promises to let attendees “watch (their) condo values rise in seconds before (their) eyes!” Across the river in Somerset, radio station WSAR is also hosting an invite-only watch party outside its hilltop studio.
But if you didn’t make the cut for someone's guest list, fear not. There are plenty of other spots to watch from.
Borden Light Marina was a popular gawker spot during last month’s chimney demolition. The towers can also be viewed from Battleship Cove, where there is ample parking, though views will be obstructed by the Braga Bridge. Whether it’s Bicentennial Park or Sandy Beach, you’ll have lots of options to choose from if you want to watch the demolition from Fall River.
And Fall River may be your best bet if you want to bear witness to what’s being billed as largest cooling tower implosion ever. Out of all the immediate surrounding towns, it has the least restrictions on travel the morning of the implosion.
Public safety officials and demolition crews are limiting where members of the public can travel on Saturday.
An exclusion zone perimeter has been established that would prohibit travel onto Brayton Point Saturday morning. The northern most border of this zone would extend to Brayton Point Road’s bridge across I-195. Beyond that, there is a maritime safety buffer zone extending south into Mount Hope Bay and north toward the Wilbur Avenue bridge over Lees River. The U.S. Coast Guard and harbor masters from Somerset and Fall River will patrol the area. Orange buoys will be deployed at the perimeter of the safety zone.
To prevent any accidents with distracted drivers, a number of blockades will also be deployed. The state police will set up rolling roadblocks in both directions of I-195 and Route 24 that will last approximately 15 minutes. Emergency vehicles will be allowed through during the blockade.
In Somerset, portions of Wilbur Avenue, Brayton Point Road and Lees River Avenue will be closed to through traffic, but open to local access and emergency vehicles.
In Swansea, Gardners Neck Road and connecting roadways such as Cliff Avenue, Ocean Grove Avenue Anthony Avenue, and Church Street will also be closed to through traffic but open for local access and emergency vehicles.
Use of helicopters and drones will also be restricted during the implosion. Helicopters will be required to stay at least a half-mile from the towers and fly no lower than 3,000 feet.
While the 10-second destruction of two 500-foot-tall concrete behemoths may sound a little perilous, the property’s owners are reassuring neighbors that there is nothing to fear.
According to Commercial Development Company, the blast will not be strong enough to break windows or make things fall off the walls in nearby homes. The company says the demolition will meet the criteria set forth by the U.S. Bureau of Mines as far as vibrations, and sensors will be activated Saturday to ensure the blast does not exceed permitted levels.
Commercial Development Company has also stated that no one has to worry about flying debris being launched from the blast zone. Chain-link fence with “flexible geotextile fabric” has been bolted over the structures, which the company says will act as a net over any debris.
The dust cloud produced by the explosion, according to Commercial Development Company, will contain no fly ash or coal dust, though it will contain silica, an active ingredient in concrete. Nearby residents are being urged to shut all doors and windows and stay inside up to 15 to 30 minutes after the blast.
Construction of Brayton Point Power Station, which would go on to be New England’s largest coal-fired power plant, began in 1957. By the time it stopped producing power in 2017, it was the last Massachusetts coal-fired station providing power to the regional grid.
At its peak, it had the capacity to generate 1,600 MW of electricity and employed more than 250 full-time staff. The amount of electricity generated there was capable of providing power to roughly 1.5 million homes.
Construction of the doomed cooling towers began in 2009 and was completed in 2013. The cost of that project was $600 million.
Rebranded as Brayton Point Commerce Center, the former power plant is set to become the site of a “world-class logistics port, manufacturing hub and support center for the emerging offshore wind energy sector,” according to its current owner.
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During a February public forum on the project, Stephen Collins, executive vice president of Commercial Development Company, said the new facility would retrofit components used in the construction of wind turbines offshore. Collins also said the site could be used as an interconnect for the energy being generated offshore.
Representatives of Commercial Development Company have said they expect the new facility to be operational by January 2020.
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