Port’s demolition of sugar refinery continuesLeonard Gray / L’Observateur / July 15, 1998RESERVE – After Godchaux-Henderson Sugar Refinery closed in the early 1980s, only rusting hulks of buildings remained. When the Port of SouthLouisiana bought the 205-acre site for $12 million in 1992, the demolition began.
Along the way, the old Godchaux House was rescued and moved off-site to its present home at West 10th Street and River Road, there to become the headquarters for the Godchaux-Reserve Historical Society.
Meanwhile the tearing down of the old refinery is “changing the landscape” of the area, Deputy Port Director Don Hays said Monday.
Hays said he “wears many hats” at the Globalplex facility, which is growing up on and around the old Godchaux refinery. Besides his economicdevelopment background, he also has an industrial technology background.
This helps him in overseeing not only the demolition of the old plant but the ongoing operation and development of the new plant, as well.
Not every trace of the refinery will be gone. The newer water tower, atleast, will become part of St. John Parish’s water system. The fate of theolder water tower is more uncertain, Hays said.
Demolition on Monday was primarily directed at Building 3, the old packing-house, where an excavator equipped with a grapple bit and chewed at pieces of wall and steel girders, physically wrenching them apart, in a way that a dinosaur might have.
The squeal and shriek of tortured steel split the air, along with the rippling boom of aluminum sheets and the shattering of old window-glass, all under the skilled hands of Terry “Quick” McGrew of DEMCO (Dismantlement and Environmental Management Co.) of West Seneca, N.Y.DEMCO, which took over the demolition of the old Godchaux plant in February in a $286,000 contract, has already removed five of the old buildings and begun significant work on two others.
DEMCO supervisor Danny Latiolais guessed they should be finished by October. Next up for takedown is Building 2, the old packing house. Behindit were the wood and brick scraps of the original raw sugar warehouse.
Meanwhile, the port has cooperated with the Godchaux-Reserve Historical Society in protecting and preserving countless artifacts from the refinery, even to the architectural plans and the old work-whistles.
Hays stressed the importance of preserving links to the past “as a foundation to our future.”The architectural plans, indeed, already saved the port “a tremendous amount of money” by revealing the layout and placement of water, natural gas, electrical and sewer lines.
Some of the water lines, in fact, date back to the original refinery from the late 1800s, built of clay. Later pipes were cast-iron. With the weightof the heavy equipment and stresses of the demolition, several of the old water lines ruptured.
At the June meeting of the South Louisiana Port Commission, the group approved a new 10-inch water line to connect with the parish’s water system.
One of the biggest problems in the takedown of the sugar refinery is the asbestos used in the buildings’ construction. First, Hays said, there was anassessment of friable and non-friable asbestos to see how much had to be removed.
Friable asbestos is that which can produce airborne particles, therefore, more dangerous, especially to inhale.
“It’s been a challenge,” Hays commented.
At the end, however, it was decided to remove all the asbestos, as the only buildings which will remain after October will be the power-plant, the larger water tower, the finished-goods warehouse and attached office building and the maintenance shed.
Also, the foundations of many buildings will be left in place, to provide foundations for new warehouses, sheds, offices and other buildings.
Significant rail spurs have already been rehabilitated and are in use.
All this work is to clear the way for significant construction and development of the Globalplex facility.
Major plans include the $32 million dock expansion, including the widening of the overpass at River Road near West 10th Street, and the construction of a major access road from the heart of the Globalplex facility to Interstate 10.
Once that is completed, along with scheduled expansion of the St. JohnAirport, Globalplex will be at the heart of a “unique” intermodal trade center, with access to major highways, two major railroads, a general cargo airport and the Mississippi River, all within two miles.
The economic impact transition from sugar refinery to major shipping center will remain in the community, enhanced by significantly more jobs and money coming into the area.
“This Is a great opportunity,” Hays said smiling, happy to be part of it all.
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