A Year Later, Melching Comes Back To Commission With New Demolition Plan

Andrew Trzaska | September 10, 2013

The companies working to demolish the smokestacks and power plant at Muskegon’s old Sappi paper mill came prepared with answers for city commissioners at their Monday work session.

Melching, Incorporated, who owns the former Sappi property, has chosen Trinity Industrial Services out of Atlanta, Georgia to complete the demolition of the structures in question.  Trinity will “kick out the legs” of the building with dynamite, according to Ken Callow, project engineer at Melching. This means the building’s structure will be weakened first, and then the dynamite will be used to create an implosion, with the intent of collapsing away from Lakeshore Drive.

“When you work on a tall building, it gets a little tricky,” said Callow, explaining that a short building can fall over in a small area, but a tall building can cause more damage in a larger area.

Trinity and Melching are asking to demolish the 10-story power plant first on Sunday, October 27, and then move on to the two remaining smokestacks at a later undetermined date. According to Callow, Sunday morning was chosen because there would be less traffic on Lakeshore Drive and students would not be in class.

Melching previously intended to demolish the largest of the smokestacks early in early 2012. Demolition of the 250-foot stack came to a halt when many members of the public voiced environmental concerns.

After further testing, the only environmental issue the stacks have appears to be approximately 3% asbestos in the paint on the outside of the smokestack. Tom Frost of Trinity noted that that paint should not go airborne, as it is bonded to the concrete of the stack walls. Nevertheless, Trinity will have dust suppression systems, which will be more for the dust that may erupt from the inside of the stacks than the asbestos on the outside.

The two-stage demolition of the power plant followed by the smokestack would also allow Melching and Trinity to clean up its debris from the power plant before dropping the stacks, which must be treated differently because of the asbestos.

When asked why Melching switched companies for demolition, Doug Melching, owner of the company, stated that negotiations broke down about a year ago with the previous company out of Idaho, Advanced Explosive Demolitions.

City staff set forth 17 criteria that Melching and Trinity needed to complete to move forward with the demolition. Clearances will be needed from the city’s Director of Public Safety, Jeff Lewis, as well as Fire Chief Major Metcalf. While they won’t give an approval, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will review the demolition plans to make sure it is within their standards.

Evacuations of businesses and homes within a safety zone will take place hours ahead of the demolition, and door-to-door checks will be performed ahead of the actual implosions, according to Trinity demolition expert Steve Murray.

Ten, five and one minute warning sirens will sound in the area ahead of the blast. According to Murray, a total of six blasts will likely be used to take down the building, in pairs of two for a total of three loud “pop” noises. The dynamite of will explode at loudness between 120 and 130 decibels, which is equivalent to the sound of a jet engine.

Hab’s Good Eats n’ Treats, the only business within the most immediate danger zone of the power plant, will be completely covered and boarded up by Trinity. Other houses will need to be closed up, but the amount of blowback dust from the implosion should be minimal, said Murray.

The implosion will only be cancelled, according to Murray, if the dust suppression systems weren’t working or if very severe weather, such as lightning, occurred.

The city commission did not vote on the demolition plan nor its planned October 27 date at the work session. The intent of the meeting was to give Melching and Trinity the go-ahead to get the list of requirements from city staff in place. A vote on approval is expected at the city’s full commission meeting on September 24.

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst