Chimney implosion will end decades of Detroit trash incinerator stench

DETROIT (AP) — The looming chimney of a shuttered trash incinerator whose stench has sickened and angered Detroit residents for decades is collapsing in a controlled implosion expected Sunday morning.

The plan to reduce the chimney to rubble is nearing the final phase of the year-long demolition of the facility, which is expected to be completed by July, according to the city.

The facility has been near the Interstate 94 and 75 interchange for more than 30 years, a few miles northeast of downtown Detroit. Prior to the closure in 2021, fumes and the foul smell of burning rubbish could be smelled for miles, but were strongest for residents on nearby streets, raising concerns about pollution and health impact residents.

The approximately 330-foot (100-meter-tall) incinerator operated by Detroit Renewable Energy opened in 1989. Up to 5,000 tons (4,535 metric tons) of waste were burned there daily.

“The presence of this incinerator was a real pain point for this community because it was another example of a health hazard placed in a low-income community of color,” Mayor Mike Duggan said last year. “We worked hard behind the scenes to shut down the incinerator, and now the people of this neighborhood will finally be able to say goodbye to it forever.”

Detroit’s household trash is now trucked to landfills outside the city limits.

The city went door to door to homes outside the impact zone, alerting residents to the implosion and urging them to keep windows closed as a precaution. The explosives will cause the chimney to fall on the incinerator’s property, away from the nearest residential area, the city said.

Nearby streets will be closed and water misters will be used to wet the property before, during and after the implosion to help trap dust at the site. Workers will check air quality and conduct vibration monitoring before and after the implosion.

Similar implosions have not happened without problems.

An air and dust explosion from the June 2 implosion of two smokestacks at a closed coal-fired power plant outside Pittsburgh knocked down utility poles and damaged nearby homes. The blast of air shattered windows and blew dust from fallen piles into houses. The surge also downed trees and several utility poles and their wires, resulting in a surge that damaged electrical appliances in homes.

The demolition of an old coal-fired power plant in 2020 pushed a huge cloud of dust through a Chicago neighborhood.

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