Owners of Sappi property present new stack demolition plan to state

1 of 2 Sappi stacks to come down

MUSKEGON, MICH. - Structural engineers believe one of two tall smoke stacks at the Sappi property needs to come down immediately.

It was one year ago when a group of local investors purchased the closed paper plant. Those investors, using the name "Pure Muskegon," pledged to speed up demolition at the site and that has happened. Since then, most of the buildings have been removed.

"People are concerned, what is going to happen," said Ellouise Hieftje, President of the Muskegon Lakeside Neighborhood Association.

The two stacks at the property are over 200 feet tall -- which developers plan on removing.

Last week, the neighborhood association's president received a courtesy e-mail from the city's police department. The notice informed neighborhood leaders that one of the two stacks is dangerous and needs to come down immediately.

The conclusion was made by a firm hired to remove asbestos from the exterior of the stacks. Workers with the out-of-state firm hired to do the remediation work began setting up scaffolding to climb the stacks last month.

The equipment was removed after anchor bolts used to attach the platforms to the stack failed "pull out" tests. The company planned to go up the stack and remove asbestos with with a high pressure water blaster.

Pure Muskegon has submitted plans to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality seeking permission to knock the stack down without doing the asbestos remediation work first. It may happen next week the state approves the plan.

If the stack is knocked down all of the rubble would be hauled to a landfill that's certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Michigan D.E.Q.

Pure Muskegon and the city's police department are working on an action plan to notify neighbors, close roads and keep people back from the blast if the state approves the plan. Pure Muskegon believes the second stack is structurally sound enough to work on and it's work may begin after the dangerous stack is removed.

Developers purchased the 120-acre property last August. Plans call for the former industrial site to become "Windward Pointe." The development may include marinas, restaurants, and various forms of waterfront housing.

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