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Old water tower comes down at VA medical center in Leeds

  • <br/>Water tower at the VA Center in Leeds being taken down Wednesday morning.
  • <br/>Water tower at the VA Center in Leeds being taken down Wednesday morning.

A demolition crew specializing in taking down old water towers around the country traveled Wednesday to Leeds, where workers dismantled the approximately 125-foot-tall tower that supplied water to the medical center since the early 1920s.

The crew from Iseler Demolition Inc. of Michigan cut apart the elevated steel tank, which formerly held and supplied 200,000 gallons of water to the campus of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System on Route 9.

A crane operator removed segments of the silvery tower as they were cut away with torches by a crew positioned high along the tower’s frame. The steel was being shipped off to William F. Sullivan & Co.’s scrap metal yard in Holyoke.

The ironworkers had already been in New Jersey this week, where they took another tower down. They were heading Thursday to Ohio to dismantle another, according to workers on the ground. It is not known what property those towers were on. The company reportedly dismantles about 100 water tanks a year.

“These guys are very efficient,” said Ryan Dennis, a superintendent with Legion Construction Inc. of Chelmsford, the general contractor.

Legion earlier oversaw construction of a new, 263,000-gallon ground-based water tank on the campus nearby that went online about six months ago, according to the VA medical center.

“The old system was what was state of the art at the time, a gravity-fed system,” said VA spokesman Dennis R. Ramstein. “The new system is a modern pump system and will take us into the next 80 to 100 years.”

Ramstein said the Leeds facility was required to build a new water tank because the old tower was no longer sufficient to fulfill the medical center’s emergency response needs.

“It was about 60,000 gallons shy of what the VA needs,” he said.

In addition, the old tower did not meet earthquake design standards and could not be modified to accommodate a larger tank, he said.

Crews began working at 5 a.m. Wednesday and planned to have the entire tower down by the end of the day. Demolition of the tower’s concrete base and footings was expected to follow.

Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.

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