Timber! Mount Tom Power Plant smokestack demolished

  • Francis Como brought his two grandchildren, Irelynn, 5, and Blake Piedra, 8, to watch the destruction of the Mount Tom Power Plant smokestack on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • The Mount Tom Power Plant smokestack on Tuesday, August 6, 2019, minutes before its destruction. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • People gather to watch the demolition of the Mount Tom Power Plant smokestack on Tuesday, August 6, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • The destruction of the Mount Tom Power Plant smokestack on Tuesday, August 6, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • The demolition of the Mount Tom Power Plant smokestack on Tuesday, August 6, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • People gather to watch the destruction of the Mount Tom Power Plant smokestack on Route 5 in Holyoke, Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • The demolition of the Mount Tom Power Plant smokestack on Tuesday, August 6, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • People gather to watch the demolition of the Mount Tom Power Plant smokestack on Tuesday, August 6, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 8/6/2019 5:30:38 PM

HOLYOKE — On Tuesday afternoon, the 370-foot-tall Mount Tom Power Plant smokestack was demolished, falling to the ground like a giant tree that had just been chopped.

After the coal-fired plant closed in 2014, parts of it were demolished. But the smokestack, which has loomed over Route 5 since 1960, was the most prominent piece remaining.

“It’s been here my whole life,” spectator Francis Como said, sitting alongside Northampton Street waiting for the implosion.”It’s a piece of history going away.”

It was a good way to get out of the house with his grandchildren Irelynn Piedra, 5, and Blake Piedra, 8, who stood next to him.

“I’ll take your picture before the blast and after,” he said he told them. “Then when you’re my age, you can say ‘I remember that — Pepe took me.’”

Tony Maspo of Holyoke said he frequently bikes on Route 5 past the former plant. “The stack is iconic, kind of like the Citgo sign in Boston,” he said, sitting next to his bicycle.

“I’ve never witnessed an implosion,” he added. “I thought it would be kind of neat to see.”

Several dozen people stood by watching. Some were spectators, while others were involved in the job. The road was closed briefly, so many onlookers came by bike or on foot.

When a few loud warning beeps sounded, everyone whipped out their phones, ready to capture the destruction. Promptly at 1 p.m., the smokestack fell to the ground in about 10 seconds, and a cloud of smoke formed above it.

The 146-megawatt Mount Tom power station closed in 2014 after running for more than 50 years; for most of that time, it used coal as its fuel. At the time, GDF Suez, the former name of Engie, the company that owns the site, said competition with natural gas was a reason for shuttering.

In the years before the closure, environmental and community activists pushed for the end of the power plant, citing health and environmental concerns. A solar farm with 17,208 panels was built on the property and started generating power in 2017.

For the past year, plans were being developed for the smokestack implosion, according to Julie Vitek, vice president of communications with Engie North America.

There are no immediate plans for the area where the power plant and smokestack once stood.

Several years ago, a city-commissioned study looked at possible reuses of the area with input from public meetings. The company, however, is not bound to pursue any of the recommendations. The report’s three recommendations all included installing solar arrays of varying sizes, and some of the potential plans included establishing recreational space and riverfront access.

“We’ll remediate the site for possible development down the road,” Vitek said. “Plans have not been finalized.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.




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