NEW BEDFORD — The first phase of a lengthy demolition project for the decommissioned waterfront power station began Monday — with contractors taking precautions for both wildlife and high levels of asbestos. 

The sprawling, 30-acre facility hosts five storage warehouses, a gas manifold building, four former oil tanks, a thicket of rusted piping and a five-story brick power station with an 80-foot smokestack. All but one of the warehouses, a 19th century stone foundry building, and an electrical substation will be razed to pave the facility into a staging area for the burgeoning offshore wind industry. 

“Just about everything goes,” said Fabricio Yumiguano, the project manager for Anchor QEA, which is overseeing the demolition. The first phase of permitting was approved Friday, said a spokesman for the city’s Department of Inspectional Services, with additional permits still pending for the demolition of other structures, like the brick power station.

The facility was renamed the New Bedford Foss Marine Terminal this spring, following the $13.6 million acquisition of the property by Seattle-based Foss Maritime and a group of local investors. The site was formerly owned by both Eversource and Sprague Energy, which received $8.2 million and $5.4 million for their respective parcels. 

One small structure of rusted gears and piping, formerly used as a gate valve for the plant’s water-cooling system, also hosts an unexpected, temporary stakeholder: two nesting ospreys and their brood of recently hatched chicks. Foss Marine Terminal President Andrew Saunders said they have been in contact with wildlife agencies and the city’s Conservation Commission, adding that they will avoid the area until the birds have fledged. The Terminal has posted a livestream of the nest.

On a gusty Monday morning, excavators maneuvered around the corrugated warehouses, hauling out scraps of metal, wood and relics of industry-past, like office supplies emblazoned with Utility Workers Union of America Local 369 and “anything with an oil source,” Yumiguano said. 

Asbestos, which was used on the site for insulation, has long been a concern of the state Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). 

“We are working with DEP to make sure everything is done according to regulations,” Yumiguano said. He said the asbestos remediation was necessary before the facility was acquired. “Asbestos tends to find its way out over time. It’s good to take care of it before it becomes a problem.” 

The brick power station, which Yumiguano said has high levels of asbestos, has been sealed off with a negative pressure and filtration system. They have hired a third-party “asbestos project manager,” specifically for monitoring asbestos samples, which MassDEP confirmed are submitted daily to the state. Through June and July of this year, MassDEP has also conducted site inspections and approved asbestos abatement plans for parts of the demolition project. “No deficiencies were observed during the inspection,” a spokesman for the state department wrote to The Light, adding that it will “continue to oversee the related asbestos abatement activities.” 

Contractors have sealed and primed pipes for asbestos removal Credit: Christopher Rosonina / The New Bedford Light

The power station will be demolished once contractors have identified and safely removed “suspect material,” Yumiguano said, and the smokestack will be imploded. Pending the necessary permits, he said that will likely take place in the fall. 

The power plant was New Bedford’s main source of energy for most of the 20th century. It was decommissioned almost three decades ago yet continues to loom over the Port of New Bedford.

The Foss Marine Terminal is the second offshore wind staging area on New Bedford’s waterfront. It is slated to open in March 2023, and will provide storage, laydown yards for equipment and materials, berth facilities for tug and barge operations, host crew transfer vessels and service operation vessel support services.

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