Brayton Point cooling towers in Somerset to come crashing down
The goodbye will be short and sweet. Ten seconds to be exact.
That’s how long it’s expected to take for a pair of 500-foot concrete cooling towers to implode Saturday morning at the former Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, once the largest coal-fired power plant in New England.
The waterfront facility ceased operation two years ago and its new owner is transforming the 308-acre site into a development catering to the offshore wind industry.
It’s hard to come by people who are sad to see the stocky tubes crumble in Mount Hope Bay, but celebrations commemorating the towers’ demise are aplenty.
“I don’t think the community grieves those towers with any degree of affection,” said Somerset’s town administrator, Richard Brown.
The event planned for 8 a.m. is expected to draw thousands of spectators and set a new world record, giving Brayton Point the distinction of being the tallest cooling towers ever imploded. The tallest currently on record to come down were a foot shorter at 499 feet, said Steve Collins, executive vice president of Commercial Development Company, Inc., the St. Louis business that is redeveloping Brayton Point.
“It’s going to be a major party down on the South Coast,” Collins said. “This is like the Fourth of July.”
Restaurants with views of the towers are hosting brunches with implosion-themed dishes and cocktails like the “New View Mimosa” and the “Towering Bloody Mary.”
In nearby Fall River, SALT Fitness Company, a gym, and The Herald News, the city’s newspaper, are hosting implosion parties, according to their Facebook pages. The maritime museum Battleship Cove is opening the deck of the USS Massachusetts to people who pay $5 each to watch the spectacle over coffee and pastry.
“Everybody in this area is excited to have the towers come down,” said Nathan Setera, a manager at Barrett’s Waterfront, a restaurant in Fall River across from the towers.
The restaurant is hosting a sold-out “Bring Em Down Breakfast” at 7:30 a.m. Saturday for 250 patrons who will have front-row seats for the implosions.
The menu includes a Bloody Mary with a pair of celery stalks in honor of the two towers and a cupcake tower. Castle Island Brewing Co. in Norwood will be there to serve Lil’ Dynomite, a red ale, Setera said.
Cristoff Shay, executive vice president and director at Battleship Cove, said tickets for the implosion gathering aboard the USS Massachusetts sold out within 24 hours.
“It’s a historic event,” he said. “It seemed people were very eager and excited.”
The implosions are a milestone for environmental groups like the Conservation Law Foundation, which sued in 2013 over the plant’s air emissions. Several environmental groups are gathering at Kennedy Park in Fall River to watch the towers come down.
“This is the end of coal-powered power plants in this area,” said Kendra Anderson, president of Climate Action RI, one of the groups planning to watch from Kennedy Park. “We’ve all been working very hard at getting rid of fossil fuel use. Just a little bit of success is heartening for us.”
The coal-fired power station was built in 1957. At the height of its operation, the plant employed more than 250 full-time workers and provided electricity to 1.5 million homes, according to Commercial Development Co.
The cooling towers were erected near the end of the facility’s life as a power plant.
In 2007, Dominion Energy Brayton Point, LLC, which operated the site, reached a settlement with federal regulators requiring the cooling towers to be constructed to reduce the amount of warm water the power plant was sending into Mount Hope Bay on the Massachusetts-Rhode Island border.
The towers let Brayton Point recycle water for its operations, ending a decades-long practice at the facility of drawing water from the Taunton and Lees rivers and then discharging up to 1 billion gallons a day into the bay at temperatures as high as 22 degrees warmer than the bay’s water, the Globe reported in 2007. Environmental groups and regulators had blamed the warmer water for the decline of fish stocks in Mount Hope Bay.
Community Development purchased the property in January 2018 and began demolition work last September. In March, dynamite toppled three chimneys on the grounds.
Using a new name, Brayton Point Commerce Center, the site is being redeveloped as a manufacturing hub, port, and support center focused on the offshore wind industry.