Demolition of Lambton Generating Station to take two more years

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Debris can be seen past the No Trespassing sign at the Lambton Generating Station near Courtright.

Delsan-A.I.M. workers at work now

Heather Wright/The Independent

Demolition work on the Lambton Generation Station is expected to restart in the next few weeks but will take two years to finish.

The former coal fired plant was partly dismantled by JNX Contracting over the course of the last two years. But in March 2020, the pandemic hit and the decommissioning stopped.

Then, in May, JNX Contracting declared bankruptcy.

Ralph Curitti, the project manager for Ontario Power Generation which owns the plant on the St. Clair River near Courtright, says OPG had to wait for the bankruptcy courts approval. “In that process, there are certain protections, so that they were given time to sort of restructure the business. We didn’t take any action against them in that regard,” Curitti says, “at least until we received permission from the court to terminate that vendor and get another vendor.”

OPG has just signed a contract with Delsan-A.I.M. to take down the rest of the plant. Delsan-A.I.M. completed the demolition of OPG’s Nanticoke coal fired plant in 2017.

“They’re just currently there on site, just sort of mobilizing, preparing their construction island and getting ready to start the work,” says Curitti. “I would say in the next couple of weeks, you’ll see some activity starting up.

“Our objective is to have the project completed by the end of 2022.”

Curitti says the company will first remove all the asbestos on the site. “And then you’ll see, essentially, a lot of the smaller buildings and around the front of the property closer to St. Clair Parkway start to get cleared up, and they’ll be demolished and backfilled.

“And then at that point, the boilers themselves would come down, we have that currently scheduled to come down end of November, beginning of December of this year. And then, once those are down, it’s a matter of just clearing up all that scrap and preparing the chimneys for their demolition.”

That’s the part that concerns St. Clair Township Mayor Steve Arnold. He says residents in the Courtright area have been patient through the two or three years OPG has been working on the site and they’ll be glad to see the work complete.

But he’s concerned about the way the company plans to bring down the giant chimneys at the front of the building.

OPG’s original plans call for the cement cylinders to be imploded. Arnold says his council and the community don’t like that idea at all.

“We’ve made it very clear, we don’t want them imploded,” says Arnold. “We want them removed and we’re getting a lot of pushback from them on that.”

Arnold says council has asked the chimneys be dismantled with a large crane, just like they were erected. He says dropping the chimneys with implosions would create a lot of debris which is potentially toxic.

“The switchyard is right there, we got Courtright, right there, we have all those people up and down the river, on both sides.,” he says.

Implosion, Arnold says, is “the easy way out, it’s just to have a big explosion dropped them. Do you really care about the neighbors? You really question whether anybody’s too concerned about the people live around there because that old cement – a lot of it was built with asbestos and such for fibers within it.”

But the plans have not changed with the new contractor stepping in.

“Our plan is to still use an implosion methodology. The plan is to bring down the chimneys around August of 2022 timeframe,” says Curitti.

“I don’t believe that the stacks would reach the roadway ..we’re quite confident that, that that would go smoothly. The vendor that we have, they did just recently complete the demolition of the Nanticoke generating station, which had two very large chimneys as well, and those went down without a hitch,” he adds.

“We’ll obviously be doing all the sort of environmental specs, making sure there’s no environmentally sensitive materials in the chimneys.

“We have no reason to believe at this time that they have anything other than just regular concrete in them.”

Arnold would like to see OPG answer to the public for its plan. “They need to go out to the public and not through council or through the mayor’s chair. It needs to go out into public meetings, again, by the new contractor, to assure these people that things are going to be done in an environmentally safe manner.”

The asbestos removal is expected to start in a couple of weeks with about 40 people onsite doing the work.

Curitti says the demolition company will take the scrap steel for payment – estimated to be worth about $24 million. OPG had already paid JNX about $3 million for its work.

The company which will complete the demolition of Lambton Generating Station also worked at the Nanticoke Generating Station. Here’s video of the stacks dropping there in 2018.