Port makes final preparations for Kaiser smokestack demolition





That will be the sequence of events Sunday morning at 8 a.m. as the Port of Tacoma demolishes a 500-foot smokestack located on the former Kaiser Aluminum Smelter site.

The goal? Transform 96 acres of unused industrial space into a productive marine terminal.

On Friday afternoon, the final explosive charge will be loaded into the base of the 38-year-old smokestack by Salt Lake Seismic Services, a subcontractor responsible for demolishing the tower. According to port spokesman Mike Wasem, both the port and the contractor have taken steps to make sure the explosion has little impact on the community and the environment.

““Minimal impact is expected as a result of the stack demolition,”” said Wasem. ““Ground vibration will be minimal, and noise from the explosion should be equal to that of a typical fireworks display.””

Instead of imploding the stack, contractors have loaded the base of the structure with  explosives, aiming to tip the stack over like a large tree so it lands on a dirt “landing pad.”

Remote Access Technology, another subcontractor on the project, cleaned and pressure-washed the concrete-and-steel interiors (which measure 26 inches thick at the walls, and eight inches thick at the toip), removing more than 100 tons of soot.

Though port officials are encouraging the public to watch this event on television, limited public viewing has been arranged at Blair Terminal off Port of Tacoma Road and Marshall Avenue. All roads near the Kaiser site will be closed prior to the stack demolition, and there will be no parking or camping out along Taylor Way, Alexander Avenue or anywhere in the immediate or adjacent area of the Kaiser property on the evening of July 1. This will be enforced by Tacoma Police, Port of Tacoma Security and Puyallup Tribal Police. Law enforcement will also patrol SR 509 to ensure that people are not parking along this busy roadway to view the event. Additionally, the U.S. Coast Guard will close the Blair Waterway to recreational vessels and personal watercraft for safety and security reasons.

Sunday’’s demolition will be the second smokestack destroyed in the Pacific Northwest in the past three months. In May, the 499-foot Trojan Cooling Tower near Portland, Oregon was toppled.

According to Wasem, the site was originally developed in 1942. It was operated by the Olin Company during World War II. Kaiser purchased the plant after the war, and the Port purchased the 96-acre site in December 2002 after Kaiser curtailed production in 2000.

Tacoma-based R.W. Rhine has a $3.6 million contract with the Port to demolish and remove more than 70 vacant structures on the site.

While demolition is very technical and computer controlled, the port has sponsored a contest, allowing members of the public the opportunity to push a ceremonial button, initiating the demolition process. According to Wasem, nearly 500 people entered the contest. A winner will be randomly selected Friday.

The Kaiser site will be incorporated into the Port’s future maritime terminal growth plans, creating greater capacity for cargo.

The Kaiser Aluminum smelter site. (PHOTO COURTESY PORT OF TACOMA)