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Remaining Wood River Power Station Taken Down Sunday Morning

Workers watch from a safe distance as the main structure of the former Wood River Power Plant in East Alton is brought down by explosives on Feb. 1.  The smokestacks and remaining structures are set to come down this weekend.
File Photo / Derik Holtmann
Belleville News-Democrat
Workers watch from a safe distance as the main structure of the former Wood River Power Plant in East Alton is brought down by explosives on Feb. 1. The smokestacks and remaining structures came down this weekend.

Updated March 14 with demolition details

EAST ALTON — The smokestacks at the Wood River Power Station were imploded Sunday without issue around 8 a.m.

The plant’s three stacks produced a cloud of dust that mainly stayed over the demolition site, until water cannons dispersed it. Demolition officials had been worried about potential wind gusts carrying dust away from the site.

Work now shifts to remediating the rest of the property.

Original story from March 12

EAST ALTON — The final parts of the Wood River Power Station will be demolished this weekend with the planned implosion of the plant’s smokestacks Sunday morning.

East Alton Fire Chief Timothy Quigley said the remaining walkway and conveyor over Illinois Route 143 will come down on Saturday, and the stacks are scheduled to fall at 8 a.m. Sunday.

The demolition this weekend comes six weeks after the main building of the plant came down in February but the smokestacks remained standing for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study how their demolition might affect nearby levees.

It also caps the process of dismantling the shuttered coal plant, which started in 2019 after Commercial Liability Partners acquired the property.

East Alton Mayor Joe Silkwood said he’s ready for his community to move forward after the plant was shuttered in 2016.

“We have a property that is 452 acres that has a building on it that is dysfunctional and property that’s contaminated,” he said. “We need it to be used for something. It’s too big a space and too valuable a location to not be used.”

Silkwood said he doesn’t know what might replace the old coal plant, only that it won't be another power plant.

“As we go forward, industry in this area is not the same as it used to be, but tourism is greater than it ever was,” he said.

The demolition also drew attention from environmentalists who fear this weekend’s smokestack demolition could send toxic dust over neighborhoods, which happened in Chicago’s Little Village with the old Crawford Generating Station demolition last year.

Demolition officials say they’re monitoring wind speeds to ensure any dust the implosion creates doesn’t travel far from the site.

A spokesperson for Commercial Liability Partners said the company would also follow all safety regulations for the Wood River Power Station smokestack demolition, but there aren’t specific statewide rules for coal-fired power plant demolitions.

After this demolition, the Wood River Power Station property still requires environmental remediation of coal ash, a toxic byproduct from burning coal, said Andrew Rehn, a civil engineer at Prairie Rivers Network, which works on pollution issues across the state.

“At the Wood River Power plant, most of that property is coal ash ponds,” he said.

Rehn explained they are pits near the plant that would be filled with coal ash and water while the power station was operating. He added that all but one of the property’s ponds aren’t lined.

“So this water that sits in the pond and goes into the coal ash can go right into the groundwater,” he said. “It’s essentially ash on dirt.”

He said Illinois will have specific rules for coal ash pollution that will roll out in the coming weeks.

Follow Eric on Twitter: @EricDSchmid

Eric Schmid covers business and economic development for St. Louis Public Radio.