December 11, 1966
This word was put out by representative of M.W.Kellogg Co., builders of the American Smelting and Refining Co’s new “big stack.” Work on the 828-foot stack is nearing completion and the next tall stack, destined for the title, will be built in Ohio. It will be 25 feet taller, at least.
Plans call too, for some 1,000 foot stacks, to be built for East Coast power plants. So if El Paso is going to do any bragging, it must be done at once! The $1.5 million big stack, the fifth one to be constructed at the local smelter in the past 65 years, is a German-patented structure. Actually it is two stacks together, the outside shell and an inner shell or liner, with 10 feet of air space between the two. They stand on a concrete block some 12 feet thick, atop a hill composed of slag. It’s a pretty solid base.
Dr. John Abersold, head of environmental research at the ASR, had invited me to take the trip up to the top. Dan Milburn, chief photographer for The Times, was to accompany us. Last Monday we met Dr. Abersold at the smelter and with Oscar Abeyta, chief sanitarian of the City-County Health Department, we drove over to the big stack. There we were met by Alfred Schroth, one of two-superintendents on the project.
The stack is so tall that as you stand beside it and look up, you get the impression it is leaning toward you. But it isn’t – delicate precision instruments were used to keep it “true” as it was built. Both stacks are of poured concrete, with steel reinforcing vertically and horizontally.
A special circular platform in a hydraulic rig was used to hold the concrete as it was squirted into the forms. It was leveled and distributed by vibrators and then allowed to “cool” or harden. When one level was completed the whole rig was moved up and the process repeated. The inside stack was built at the rate of about 10 feet per eight-hour shift; the outside stack, wilder and of greater diameter, took more time.
Total cubic yards of concrete use din the stack were 11,318 and 857,460 feet of reinforcing steel, about 162 miles.
Riding the “bird-cage” to the top is an experience. The five of us were crowded in the tiny steel lift and at a signal the hoist man started us up. A cable, 2,000 feet long, is used for the hoist. About 200 feet up the light fades out from below and your trip is in pitch black darkness. About 200 feet below the top the light reaches you again.
Up on top of the inner stack 828 feet up that is, there is a work platform. Here the bird-cage was caught and we stepped out. A crew of about eight men was busy moving the forms and equipment used. As a piece of equipment was disassembled it was hoisted by block and tackle, slung from a 50-foot derrick above, swung into the opening, tied to the hoist cable and dropped to the base.
Between the two stacks a platform had been laid and you could ease up on ladder, down the other side and stand there – about 825 feet above the ground. The view was magnificent, the feeling – well, different.
Far below smoke poured out of the 400-foot stack. A tiny diesel shunted ore cars. Cars and trucks sped along Doniphan Drive – mere toys.
“Will the stack sway in high wind?” was one of the questions put to Schroth. It doesn’t sway, he said – it gives. It gives about 18 to 24 inches and this sets up a motion like an egg beater, a rotation effect. This in turn makes it safe in high winds. The only way to determine this sway or “give” would be to shoot it with a transit during a high wind. And, as he asked, who would want to do that?
What will be gained by ASR using the big stack was the question put to Dr. Abersold. He is the man at the smelter who constantly works to hold down the smoke threat, to eliminate the spread of smoke clouds over the city.
SMOKE GOES HIGHER – First and foremost the stack was built by ASR to take smoke to a greater height and to disperse it over a greater area, thereby benefiting the City of El Paso. As the smoke rises in the stack it will be heated. The inside stack can stand temperatures up to 380 degrees Fahrenheit. As the hot smoke rises it will reach a high velocity and shoot up to about 1200 feet before dispersing.
Too, the greater draft in the big stack will pull more smoke from around the furnaces. A secondary benefit but important to workers.
“This is much higher than any of our present stacks. We expect a much greater dispersion and consequently much less smoke, to spread over El Paso. The winds at that height, we hope, will carry much of the smoke well above and far beyond the city,” said Dr. Abersold.
Schroth, a native of Germany, and W.W. Lewis were the project superintendents. Work started Aug. 15, after the foundation was poured last spring. The equipment should all be down in the next few days and few minor projects, such as placing the stainless steel cap over the air space between the two stacks, erecting a platform around the top and installing air warming beacons remain. In time, the tower will be painted.
“We should be finished by Jan. 30,” said Schroth. A brick intake will then be constructed from the ore furnaces into the big stack and it will be in operation. T.J. Woodside, southwestern manager for ASR, is the man who is most anxious to get it into operation.
TWO STACKS OUTMODED – Two brick stacks have been outmoded by later stacks. But there is no place to drop them, Dr. Abersold pointed out. The brick stacks would have to be taken down by hand and this is too costly. Maybe in time, if the price of used bricks continues to climb, it will be done.
A crew of about 75 men has worked on the construction, with three shifts of eight hours each. Schroth was proud of the fact that, to date, there has not been a single accident. A large safety net hangs underneath all of the equipment up at the top, I noticed.
About 30 minutes later, after taking pictures and chatting with the workers, we descended and stopped back on Texas soil. It was a wonderful feeling. I must admit.
A movie camera buff, I had a wonderful time. Kneeling carefully on a four-four wide platform (with no outside guard rails) I had taken pictures in color of Sierra de Cristo Rey, the new Coronado Towers, Temple Mt. Sinai, Doniphan Drive, shot down in t the little old 400-foot stack and many others. When I got home I carefully opened the camera and prepared to turn the reel over. And then, guess what – no film! Just my luck!
And I don’t plan to ever go up on the big stack again. There will be a ladder in the side but 828 feet up, rung by rung, is a little too big an order!