LIMESTONE, Maine — About six weeks after the controlled implosion of the old heat plant at the former Loring Air Force Base failed to bring down the entire structure, crews with the Portland-based company responsible for the work took down the last pieces of the building just before lunch time Friday.
Carl Flora, president and CEO of the Loring Development Authority, said Friday afternoon that the last of the 64-year-old building was resting on the ground as a pile of steel, concrete and other rubble.
“There is still a lot of stuff left that has to be processed,” said Flora. “But it is ready to be hauled away.”
In a controlled building implosion, structures are turned into a pile of rubble through a series of timed and carefully placed explosive charges which drop the building straight down without damaging any nearby structures.
On Aug. 13, crews from Engineered Products Co. Inc. came to Limestone to perform what they billed as the largest implosion ever in the state. Precision Explosives, the New York company hired by Engineered Products to implode the building, used 290 pounds of dynamite with 105 blasting caps, which officials said was a larger amount than usual because of the amount of steel in the building. During the implosion, three of the five smokestacks fell to the ground and some of the building crumbled. A portion of the back and sides of the building also gave way, but the majority of the structure remained standing. Even some of the windows in the old plant were unbroken.
Jennifer Gregor, operations manager with Engineered Products, said Friday that the explosives company simply underestimated the amount of product necessary to bring down a building that was constructed for the military to withstand a bombing. Ninety-five percent of the building, which was built in 1947 and shut down in 1994, was made of steel.
Engineered Products quickly began using wrecking balls and other machinery to dismantle the remainder of the building.
“They brought in a large excavator with a shear on the end of it,” Flora explained. “They used it to reach up and grab the steel and bring what was still standing down piece by piece.”
Even those efforts were hampered, however, when Hurricane Irene moved through the state last month. Gregor said that it took five trucks to move the excavator from its base in New York to Maine. The permits required for the transport were pulled after roads along the East Coast were damaged by the hurricane, so the company had to re-apply for them. They were re-issued in time for the Labor Day weekend, but officials again pulled them because they did not want the trucks moving through busy holiday traffic.
Flora said Friday that site work and debris removal will likely continue until Thanksgiving. Loring BioEnergy LLC, which hired Engineered Products to demolish the building, has plans to redevelop the site.
Projects Manager Hayes Gahagan said that Loring BioEnergy will have a clean site ready for redevelopment as a result of the deal, and Engineered Products will sell the steel to help cover its demolition costs.
“Engineered Products has done a very commendable job in getting the damaged structure down safely,” Flora said Friday. “The LDA appreciates the expertise and professionalism they brought to a difficult situation.”