April 26, 2012

FEATURE | Demolition

A 25-member workforce has been on site in Amherstburg, Ontario since January to begin taking apart the old Brunner Mond chemical plant. The contractor is Priestly Demolition and the consultant is CH2M Hill.


A 25-member workforce has been on site in Amherstburg since January to begin taking apart the old Brunner Mond chemical plant.

Amherstburg, Ontario chemical plant set to come down piece by piece

In what may be the largest project of its kind in the area, a range of industrial buildings will be demolished and the sprawling site will be remediated and eventually redeveloped.

Situated on County Road 20 right across from the Detroit River, the plant was used to manufacture calcium chloride which was shipped from a deep water port on the river.

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But the plant was closed in 2005 when the Canadian subsidiary of General Chemical, a subsequent owner, went bankrupt.

A few years ago, the property was purchased by Honeywell Canada-led Amherstburg Land Holdings which has long-term plans to redevelop the lands for industrial uses following the completion of a three-phase demolition and remediation. The consultant is CH2M Hill.

(Under an agreement with the province, New Jersey-based General Chemical has agreed to pay $20 million for the clean-up.)

For now, the emphasis is on the first phase asbestos remediation and demolition of the site’s inventory of 30 structures by Aurora area-based Priestly Demolition.

“We bought the job,” says company president Ryan Priestly, explaining his firm was one of a few pre-selected contractors invited to bid on the project which involves making a series of payments to the owner. In return, it gets the exclusive rights to recover and sell the scrap metal and equipment.

The business case had to be as carefully planned and scrutinized as the demolition plan. But the company expects to recover and sell approximately 20,000 tons of steel and currently steel is selling for about $350 a ton, says Priestly.

Consisting of a mix of buildings ranging from a warehouse to a telephone building to a tank farm, the structures will be demolished to grade with the concrete being used as backfill as part of the Phase 1 clean up.

Future and still-to-be tendered phases include remediation below grade and the third phase decommissioning of the plant’s soda-ash settling basins, he says.

A 25-member workforce has been on site since January and will be there for at least 18 months. Consisting of separate remediation and demolition crews, the personnel include locally hired workers and supervisory staff from the company’s headquarters.

More than a few challenges and complications are involved in the project. Not only are the buildings a mix of different sizes, materials and various levels of asbestos, “at least six are so rusted they’re clearly unsafe.”

Demolition of those particular buildings will be left to later in the project, while the crew concentrates on the more structurally safe ones. After the remediation crew completes the asbestos removal, a notice is placed by Priestly’s structural engineer which allows the demolition crew approval to proceed.

The project is carried out according to provisions of an operations plan which is updated weekly with the consultant, says Priestly.

Constructed in the 1920s, the Brunner Mond plant was a major employer and its closure has hurt the town economically and socially, says Amherstburg mayor Wayne Hurst.

“We’re happy to see this redevelopment. The site is a real eyesore,” he says.

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