DTE Energy To Implode 104-Year-Old Power Plant Friday Morning

WWJ News
December 11, 2019 - 10:07 am

DETROIT (WWJ) - The remainder of a DTE Energy power plant along the Detroit River is coming down with a big bang. 

The 104-year-old Conners Creek Power Plant on Lycaste Street, near the east end of Belle Isle, will be demolished on Friday morning. DTE Spokesperson Eric Younan says the shell of a building will be brought down using limited explosives and the laws of physics. 

"This isn't a series of explosives that are going to go off at once and have the structure fall in on each other. These are going to be explosives that are strategically time milliseconds apart to make the structure fall a certain way. In this case, we're going to make it fall to the northeast, which is the safest direction that plant can fall," Younan told WWJ's Ron Dewey. "Think of it like a three-legged stool; if you removed one of those legs, the stool would fall over in a certain direction."

Younan said nearby residents will hear the explosion and could notice some dust -- officials on scene will be monitoring the air quality -- but they won't feel the blast any more than they would a passing semi-truck. No major road closures will be required.

"The smokestacks have already been removed, so that visual of the two stacks coming down are gone. There's been extensive work on that plant to demolish it, which started in the spring, so it's basically a shell and in some parts you can already see through the plant," he said. "But it's just going to look like a large box falling over." 

In spite of assurances from DTE, some neighbors on Detroit's east side are still wary. Reginald Milner lives in the Morgan Waterfront Estates, a community which backs up to Lycaste Street, and he's worried about the air quality. 

"They said there was going to be no asbestos blowing in the air but that's, like, an ancient building. So, you're going to tell me there's not? Then, they gave us these covers for our air conditioners so we don't get the smell, and they don't fit," he said. 

The plant is being cleared to make way for Fiat-Chrysler's new assembly plant. In turn, DTE will get parcels of land from the city for new substations and service centers.

Conners Creek Power Plant, which came online in 1915, generated the energy needed for Detroit to take its hold as an industrial powerhouse. In its heyday, from 1915 to 1957, the plant employed more than 350 people and produced enough energy to power nearly 400,000 homes. The plant’s legacy, however, extends far beyond Detroit’s borders. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt called upon the country to support World War II, Michigan’s automobile manufacturers transitioned their plants to produce military vehicles and planes – and the Conners Creek Power Plant was critical in the success of that effort. 

The power plant also played another important role – as a navigational marker for both watercraft and airplanes. The original plant had seven identical 352-foot-tall stacks known as the "Seven Sisters" that functioned as a location landmark for boats and planes. The "Seven Sisters" were demolished in 1996 along with the original plant. Since that time, the "Two Brothers" stacks, constructed during the 1950s expansion as a natural gas plant, served as a navigational guide to boaters and pilots.