Hamilton

Watch as OPG demolishes 2 huge smokestacks at the Nanticoke generating station

For years, they emitted a yellow haze that streaked across the sky like a sort of Lake Erie sunset. Now the giant smoke stacks at Ontario Power Generation's Nanticoke plant are coming down for good.

CBC streamed the stack's demolition live this morning. See a video of it here

Media members watch the implosion of the coal smokestacks. (Rob Krbavac/CBC)

For years, they emitted a yellow haze that streaked across the sky like a sort of Lake Erie sunset. Now the giant smoke stacks at Ontario Power Generation's Nanticoke plant are coming down for good.

Boating or just traveling up and down the rural route, you could always see them from wherever you were.- Leroy Bartlett, Haldimand  County councillor

Crews demolished the looming 200-metre (650-foot) stacks on the shoreline near Simcoe, Ont., on Wednesday. They cordoned off the area, fired up the sirens and, with a series of blasts, altered the skyline at 11 a.m.

Neal Kelly, OPG spokesperson, expected the whole thing to be "over pretty quick".

The stacks came down within seconds and fell toward each other. 

CBC streamed the stack demolition live at 11 a.m., as you can see above. More on the action is available at cbc.ca/hamilton or on Facebook at facebook.com/cbchamilton.

The Nanticoke station opened in 1972 and closed in 2013. (Ontario Power Generation)

The demolition is a sign of the times for power generation in Ontario. By May 2019, Kelly said, OPG will demolish the rest of the facility. The plan is to build a solar power generating facility on the site. Construction will start this spring.

The Nanticoke plant operated from 1972 to 2013. It was a major employer in Haldimand and Norfolk counties, providing jobs for more than 650 people at any given time.

The provincial Liberals phased out coal-fired plants over several years, the last being in Thunder Bay in 2014. The Liberals estimated this phase-out would save $3 billion per year in health care costs because there would be less smog-related air contaminants.

The station was a backdrop for a provincial campaign stop by then-Ontario PC leader John Tory in 2007. In 2005, the Liberal government announced that it would phase out coal-fired generating stations in Ontario. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

Last year, a Fraser Institute report said there had been minimal benefits to shutting them down. Installing "pollution scrubbers," the authors said, would have done the same job. The report also said the plan has contributed to Ontario's higher hydro costs.

When the plant closed, workers were given the choice to move to other facilities or retire, Kelly said. 

But Newmarket-Aurora MPP Chris Ballard, Ontario's minister of the environment and climate change, praised his government for its actions toward eliminating a onetime common occurrence: smog days.

"As Ontario nears the fourth anniversary of eliminating coal fired electricity generation, few events could be more symbolic than having the massive 200-metre tall coal smokestacks brought down at the site of the former Nanticoke Generating Station," Ballard said in a statement.

'A touch of sadness'

For Haldimand County, the smoke stacks are a landmark, said Coun. Leroy Bartlett, who lives near the village of Nanticoke. He said there will be "a touch of sadness" in watching them go.

This map shows the wide area impacted by the demolition (Ontario Power Generation)

"Boating or just traveling up and down the rural route, you could always see them from wherever you were," he said. "I don't hardly remember when those stacks weren't there."

County residents realize, though, that they're a relic.

"Times have changed," he said. "People expect their energy to be cleaner and greener, and we knew coal was not going to be an option anymore."

OPG demolished the station coal yard last spring. Lafarge accepted 40,000 tonnes of unburned coal and more than 100,000 tonnes of fly ash.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

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