We recently traveled to Topsham, Maine to remove a water standpipe that had served the former Topsham Air Force Station. Established in 1958, and later incorporated as an annex property for the nearby Brunswick Naval Air Station, the station had its own utilities separate from the municipal system. This 30’ diameter, 110’ high standpipe had a capacity of 575,000 gallons that was used to provide pressure for the station water system. Both the Naval Air Station and the Topsham annex are currently managed by the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority who are overseeing the transformation of both properties from active military facilities to thriving commercial parks. A big part of that goal is not only attracting businesses to reuse available space, but also the safe removal of unnecessary infrastructure.
Steel tanks present a variety of methods of possible dismantling. Shorter tanks, such as oil tanks, lend themselves well to mechanical dismantling using a shear. Multi-legged elevated water tanks oftentimes require the use of a crane and manual disassembly with cutting torches. But extensive experience has shown that standpipes, like the one in Topsham, are efficiently and safely dismantled with a controlled drop method. By cutting an opening near the base of the tank, gravity will do the rest of the work and the tank will fall in the direction of the cut.
Before the actual work takes place, there’s a lot of behind the scenes work that needs to be done. We had verified ahead of time that the tank was ready for demolition - the tank was drained and utilities terminated. We verified that there was ample open space in the direction that we intended to fell the tank, and that no buried utilities were present in the drop zone. Our in-house Structural Engineer, Tom Berenz, was on site with our crew to review the plan. After careful measuring and marking, our torch crew cut the “bird’s mouth” in the direction of the fall and cut the anchor bolts holding the opposite side of the tank.
Photos and drone videos from the site show that the tank dropped over according to plan.
Following the controlled drop, the tank was sheared in place so that the steel could be shipped off for recycling. The concrete foundation of the tank was broken up and shipped offsite for recycling locally, right in Topsham. Most importantly, MRRA can now restore the land that the tank had occupied for beneficial reuse.
Congratulations on a job well done to the whole project team:
Shawn Clouten and Gary Pellegrini on the torches; Homar Cabrera assisting with skid steer; Dave Oliveira operating the Volvo 480E with attachments to shear up the tank and break up the concrete foundation; Tom Berenz providing engineering, planning, and layout; Sean Rae, our Operations Manager, coordinating the mobilization with Jeff Connors and Tom Reed, our drivers; Sandi Cloutier and Jenn Perry in the office handling the paperwork and Mike Costello who estimated the job. A great team effort by all!
A special thanks goes out to Cara Duplessis for recording the project and the hours she spent editing all the videos. Don't forget to watch the video! The link can be found in the lower left corner.