Here the exact place — and explosives sequence — where Port Angeles’ PenPly stack will topple
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Rick Graff, general superintendent of Tacoma-based Rhine Demolition, explains the “bird’s mouth,” a notched-out section of the stack at the former Peninsula Plywood mill site in Port Angeles on Thursday in preparation for toppling the stack with explosives Monday. Numbers on wood blocks designate the firing order of explosive charges. -- Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — All that’s left to do is load and ignite the explosives and bring the stack down.

Workers this week finished preparing the base of the 175-foot former Peninsula Plywood chimney at 439 Marine Drive for its 3:30 p.m. Monday demolition.

They finished Wednesday drilling 20 holes into which explosives will be stuffed on the south-facing side of the structure, Rhine Demolition LLC Project Superintendent Rick Graff said Friday.

They also horizontally notched the north-facing side, wedging 2-foot timbers into what Graff called the “bird’s mouth,” a logging term.

Holes drilled into the maw’s timbers will cradle charges that will detonate first, destabilizing the 1,000-ton structure before explosives lodged in the 20 south-facing holes go off, toppling the tower much as a logger would a tree.

“Other than it’s hollow and made of concrete, and a tree is made of wood, the same thing is involved,” Graff said.

The tower is planned to fall to the north.

Rhine is leveling the 19-acre site — the former home, since 1941, of the Peninsula Plywood, KPly and ITT Rayonier plywood mill — under a $1.6 million contract with the Port of Port Angeles, which owns the property.

Woodland-based Wallace Technical Blasting is in charge of taking down the stack.

Preschooler Jason Williams, 5, and sixth-grader Thomas Reynolds, 12, won a port-sponsored coloring contest for the honor of pressing the button that will set off the signal that begins the countdown to detonation.

“It’s a button that signals the final warning, the one-minute whistle, and 60 seconds later, the blast,” port Director of Engineering Chris Hartman said.

“The detonator is via computer. It’s all electronic,” he said.

“It’s not as if you’re lighting a fuse and watching it burn.

“You have total control up until the moment the blast goes.”

Jason and Thomas will be joined by their fellow-button-pusher, Port Commissioner John Calhoun, near the fence on North Cedar Street that divides the property from its neighbor to the west, Platypus Marine.

The area between the demolition site and Platypus Marine is the designated area for spectators who would do well to begin arriving at 2:45 p.m. for the 3 p.m. start of ceremonies, Hartman suggested.

Spectators also are urged to view the take-down from the Third Street bluff located between the Eighth Street bridges.

Port Commission President Jim Hallett, a formr mayor, will serve as master of ceremonies, while state Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon is a featured speaker.

Marine Drive near the site and some side and some feeder streets onto Marine Drive will be closed for five to 10 minutes during the blast.

Employees of nearby businesses have been warned not to stand behind glass while viewing the toppling.

The sound of the explosion will be muffled by a double layer of rubber blasting mats that will be propped around the base of the stack, covering the explosives, Graff said.

“Along with protection, it’s somewhat of a sound-deadener,” he said.

“The noise will be as [the stack] comes over, cracking and popping as it hits the ground.”

The resulting pile of concrete will be broken up and taken to an as-yet-undetermined site.

Rhine will salvage the rebar, Graff said.

Most of the stack’s remains will be gone by next Friday, with Rhine slated to complete the project by May 3.

“We’re right at the end of our contract,” Graff said.

A site investigation already has begun that will determine the extent of pollution on the longtime mill site and the risk of pollutants migrating to the harbor, Hartman said.

The investigation will accelerate this spring and last through the summer.

A cleanup work plan will follow, Hartman said.

Cleanup is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.

After that, port officials hope to begin a new history on the site that focuses on marine trades.


Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at

Last modified: April 04. 2013 6:02PM
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