Blast of air, dust during implosion damaged some homes; repairs vowed

Jun 5, 2023, 2:09 PM

SPRINGDALE, Pa. (AP) — A blast of air and dust from the implosion of two smokestacks at a shuttered coal-fired power plant in western Pennsylvania last week felled power poles and caused damage to nearby homes. But the demolition company is vowing full repairs.

The implosion at the Cheswick Generating Station in Springdale, a borough just northeast of Pittsburgh, occurred shortly after 8 a.m. Friday, bringing the stacks down with a loud crash and a huge cloud of dust. One tower stood about 550 feet (170 meters) tall and the other 750 feet (230 meters).

Controlled Demolition said in a statement that the chimneys fell “exactly where they were supposed to” and noise and vibration levels were “well below” allowable state environmental protection limits, KDKA-TV reported. But, the company said, the larger chimney’s steel liner “focused air pressure as it collapsed upon impact.”

Bruno Moretti, Allegheny County’s emergency management coordinator, said the air blast broke windows and blew dust from the fallen stacks into homes. The surge also felled trees and several power poles and their wires, leading to a power surge that damaged electrical appliances such as stoves, furnaces, air conditioners, refrigerators and TVs, he said.

The company’s statement said repairs of “minor damages caused by the focused air pressure” had already begun and promised that they “will be fully completed to the satisfaction of each property owner affected,” KDKA-TV reported.

Moretti said he didn’t yet have a final report about how many people had reported damage, and more reports may be coming in. He said, however, that people he has talked to have had positive things to say about the company’s response.

“They were out cleaning up 15 minutes after the blast, getting streets open, they went around pressure-washing cars off, so in my eyes they’re trying to do right,” Moretti said. “As long as they take care of the people, I don’t have a complaint. As far as I can tell right now, everybody’s pleased with their response.”

Video of the implosion recorded by Joe Kern shows the two smokestacks fall one after the other as a thunderous blast is heard. Dirt and debris cover the air as the smokestacks hit the ground, shaking the trees and powerlines in the area. Voices can be heard yelling as debris consumes the area following the collapse.

“They ruined everything,” Kern said in the video as he shows the debris on the roof of his home, yard and vehicle.

The Cheswick plant stopped making power in the spring of 2022 and has since been taken over by an environmental remediation firm.


Associated Press video journalist Patrick Orsagos in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.

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