A landmark along the horizon on the way to the Jersey Shore disappeared Thursday morning in a loud bang that echoed across the Great Egg Harbor Bay.
A cooling tower at the former BL England Power Station in Upper Township that has been closed for more than three years imploded Thursday morning.
Hundreds of locals lined up — on land and on their boats — to watch the demolition which happened at 9:30 a.m. Within less than a minute, the tower was down. At first, the bottom collapsed and the tower dropped down. For about a half-minute, it looked like the tower would still stay standing — someone even said “That’s a fail” — but then it leaned to the left and appeared to fold in on itself as it collapsed.
John Nugent of Mays Landing set up along Jobs Point Road in Somers Point across from the cooling tower on the Great Egg Harbor River. Dozens of other cars pulled in along the road to watch.
”I actually watched them build that,” Nugent said. ”Now I come out here and I shoot birds for a photography habit and see the cooling tower every day. Kind of glad to see it go down I guess. It’s progress. It’s been kind of an ugly site for years.”
Construction on the Upper Township plant began in 1961 and the cooling tower was built 13 years later, according to a report by the Press of Atlantic City. The tower protected the marine animals by preventing the plant from heating up the waters of the adjacent Great Egg Harbor Bay.
The plant was shut down on May 1, 2019, and the former owners sold it to Beesley’s Point Development Group last year when the site was named an area in need of redevelopment, the report stated. No specific plans have been approved for the site
but a marina and hotel have been discussed.
For some, the cooling tower brought a sense of nostalgia. Michael Smith lives in Medford now but said he grew up in Ocean City and still works in the Jersey Shore town as a builder. He came to watch the demolition and sat in the back of a flatbed truck.
”I would use the tall tower, the smokestack as a point of reference as to how to dress for the day,” he said. If the wind was blowing the steam horizontally in the winter, it was a sign it’d be a cold day, he said.
But he’s glad to see the tower come down and redevelopment proceed.
“I think that it’s the right thing to do to free up some land right on the waterway because if they’re not going to use the plant anymore for what it was designed for you might as well get rid of it,” he said. “It is an eyesore.”
As a safety precaution, parts of the Garden State Parkway in the area were temporarily closed Thursday, New Jersey State Police said.
Patty and Rick Taylor of Egg Harbor Township road their bikes to come watch. “As a kid, we would go over there and we would swim off the jet ski beach because the water would be so much warmer,” said Patty.
Beesley’s Point Development Group hired Controlled Demolition Inc. to perform the implosion. Prior to the demolition, asbestos abatement was performed on the tower. Months of preparation included removing lightweight packing material that was hauled away to the Cape May Landfill, the company said. To prevent concrete and debris from being strewn around, the point of implosion was wrapped with chain link fencing and fabric to prevent debris from being strewn too far.
It was unclear exactly when the rest of the plant and its smokestack would be demolished.
Staff writer Chris Sheldon contributed
to this report.