CHESTER - The Taylor, Smith & Taylor silos' date with the wrecking ball has arrived.
The much-anticipated demolition of the seven 70-foot silos began on Monday, culminating months of cleanup and remediation work at the old TS&T pottery site in Chester.
"Everybody's been asking, 'When are the silos coming down? We want to watch,'" said Frank Six, co-owner of Six Recycling in East Liverpool.
SET COME DOWN — A Six Recycling crane, operated by Wayne Six, starts the work of demolishing the seven silos at the old Taylor, Smith & Taylor pottery on Monday. The silo demolition is expected to take about two weeks.
Bystanders and motorists on Monday watched from Eighth Street and the Jennings Randolph Bridge as Wayne Six operated a crane with a wrecking ball on the end, smashing it into the silos' lofty reinforced concrete. The crane has a 100-foot reach and a 35-ton lifting capacity.
Chunks of concrete and reinforcement bar broke loose and fell to the ground as the wrecking ball did its work most of Monday afternoon. Demolition of the silos will take about two weeks to complete, Frank Six said.
The silo work, originally scheduled to start in August, was delayed because samples of soil from underground tanks at the base of the silos had to be tested for anything toxic, Six said. Officials were awaiting the results and final approval from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.
"We had to get sampling done from underneath the tanks to make sure nothing had leaked out into the soil," Six said. "The results came back clean, so they said, 'Go ahead and take them down.'"
The silos are at least half full with powdered clay that was used in the pottery-making process. Officials had hoped the clay could be reused but found that it couldn't because it was in a hardened form, Six said.
Once the silos are down, the crushed concrete and clay will be used as filler material on the site, Six said. Other materials, including bricks, concrete, sandstone, steel beams and wood beams, have either been hauled away for reuse or kept on site as clean fill.
More than 254 loads of asbestos-containing material have been hauled away and taken to a certified landfill since cleanup began in April. Officials also believe that some of the riverbank soil is contaminated with lead, requiring further remediation with the help of a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
"We really don't want to take anything off the site if it's not contaminated," said Patrick Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle.
Recycling the construction materials from the old pottery factory will ensure the 8-acre property is ready for any future construction, Ford said. The BDC, the chief economic development authority for Brooke and Hancock counties, bought the property for $125,000 in June 2011.
"The whole premise behind remediation is to create a very developable site," Ford said. "We're using a lot of the brick and concrete as fill material to make it more level for economic development purposes."
Ford said recycling material from the site also is a cost, and time-saving measure, given that workers have found large open spaces underground in what was once the foundation of the pottery.
"It's almost like an archaeological dig," Ford said. "You find foundations of buildings. You dig a little more, and you find a new foundation. ... These are big cavernous rooms. It would take an inordinate amount of material to bring in off site to fill these in."
Ford said the site, which sat vacant and blighted since the pottery closed in 1981, is about 60 days away from being ready to promote for economic development purposes.
The site's reclamation had been identified previously as a priority by local, state and federal authorities, but it was not until a group of Chester residents - the Rock Springs Riverfront Redevelopment Committee - organized in early 2011 that the cleanup work began in earnest. Since then, the $1.1 million project has received funding from the EPA, the state of West Virginia and Hancock County commissioners.