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Demolition taking down former AES Thames plant

By Kelly Catalfamo

Publication: The Day

Published December 04. 2013 4:00AM

Montville - A national environmental contractor has purchased the now-defunct coal-fired power plant on Depot Road and is moving forward with a salvage and demolition project.

Stephen Durkee, president and CEO of the Arizona-based Interstate Construction Services, said the company was unable to find a buyer for the intact plant and is now focused on selling usable assets and scrap metal.

The plant was formerly owned and operated by AES Thames Inc., which filed for bankruptcy in February 2011. ICS purchased the plant from the bankruptcy court for $2.5 million in December 2012 and recently began the demolition process, Durkee said. He expects the demolition to be finished within six to eight months.

Durkee said ICS specializes in the removal of hazardous materials, demolition and site restoration, and has been working closely with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection "from day one." In August 2012, the trustee in the AES Thames bankruptcy case filed notice that he planned to abandon the buildings, machinery, chemicals and other remaining items at the site of the plant, claiming that the property and assets were of inconsequential value.

At the time, Montville Mayor Ronald McDaniel said the notice was filed because insurance lapsed and was expected to be withdrawn. Despite that, the DEEP filed an objection to the abandonment, arguing that there were no safety measures to prevent contamination of the Thames River, which borders the Depot Road property.

Durkee said his company is uniquely equipped to handle environmental obligations, including a large pile of coal that is located on the site, and that he has been keeping the DEEP as informed as possible throughout the demolition process.

In addition to the potential pollutants, "demolition sites by their nature are hazardous," added Durkee, who cautioned against people visiting the former AES Thames property to witness the destruction. He said the site has security and 24-hour surveillance and would be unsafe for visitors.

Currently, said Durkee, the company is working to take down the 383-foot smokestack at the former power plant. He said the stack's positioning is unique and that ICS hired a company that specializes in smoke stacks, Gerard Chimney Co., to help with its removal. Gerard Chimney is performing a piece-by-piece deconstruction of the stack, Durkee said.

The former AES Thames property has "a lot of variables," and ICS wants to "take our time, make sure it's done right," Durkee said, adding that there is a "very, very well-qualified group" of people working on the demolition.

ICS only purchased the power plant itself; the land on which it sits is owned by paperboard manufacturer RockTenn, which operates a containerboard mill on a neighboring plot of land.

Once ICS is finished with the salvage and demolition project, it will be up to RockTenn to decide what to do with the land.

AES Thames Inc. was once Montville's biggest taxpayer. It paid more than $1.2 million in taxes annually, and in 201, the town filed a lien of $2.84 million against the company for unpaid taxes.

McDaniel said the town recovered the "lion's share" of that money - $2.36 million - from bankruptcy court in December 2012.

AES Thames dropped from being the top taxpayer on the 2011 grand list, with a value of $39.7 million, to the 10th-highest taxpayer on the 2012 grand list, with a value of $4.9 million.

k.catalfamo@theday.com

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