Eight chimneys at Victoria’s defunct, coal-fired Hazelwood power station have been demolished.
The chimneys, which soared 137 metres above the town of Morwell in the Latrobe Valley, came down just before 12.30pm on Monday.
Owner Engie provided a live stream of the chimney demolition, which took about a minute and was viewed by thousands.
The chimneys were built in the 1960s and operated for more than half a century before the brown, coal-fuelled power station was shut down in March 2017.
There is about 50kg of asbestos in each chimney and about 12 tonnes of concrete, which will be monitored following the demolition in line with Victorian environment laws.
Engie head of corporate affairs in Australia and New Zealand, Ryan Auger, said the asbestos was in the base of the chimneys, but it was far enough from the detonation site not to become airborne.
“There is absolutely no risk that asbestos will be anywhere other than on the ground, and ultimately remediated on site and stored in an approved cell,” Auger said.
Engie said its ultimate goal was to rehabilitate the 4,000-hectare site, which has been a headache for the Latrobe Valley community since 2014, when a bushfire spread to the coal mine and burned for 45 days.
Hazelwood Power Corporation was fined $1.56m last week in the supreme court of Victoria for putting employees and nearby residents at risk by failing to prepare for the fire.
The power station produced roughly 25% of Victoria’s electricity and employed 750 people in the Latrobe Valley area.
It was also known as Australia’s dirtiest power station, responsible for 14% of the state’s total emissions, a reason Engie cited for the closure.
“We recognise it’s going to mean different things for different people, particularly those who worked in and around the power station. It’s certainly the end of an era,” said Auger.
“For others, this may very well represent change and renewal. For the project team at Engie it’s the culmination of an enormous amount of planning.”
Auger said the demolition marked a “major milestone” for the community and the company had spent almost 12 months preparing for the demolition, which went “perfectly”.
About 400 people remain employed at the plant to prepare demolition and to rehabilitate the site. Proposals include turning its coal mine into a lake.
Auger said Engie’s ultimate goal is to hand the site back to the community to safely enjoy.
“The people who worked here should be very proud and hopefully they get some use out of the future site,” he said.
“They can go there with their children and grandchildren and tell them about the work that they did on the site.”
All Hazelwood demolition work is expected to be finished by 2022.