RED SPRINGS — It took just a few seconds on Friday to topple the water tower at the old Red Springs Knitting plant that stood sentinel in the Mill Village area since the 1930s.
The town removed the gray and rusty tank Friday morning as part of a multi-year project to upgrade water and sewer infrastructure in that area.
The tower once held up to 75,000 gallons of water that served the plant and nearby residents. But the area switched to more modern infrastructure several decades ago and recent state and federal grants made it possible to do extensive repair to water lines in the Mill Village.
Public Works Director Tim Mauldin said the grant also included money to remove the water tank at a cost of about $50,000, while the cost of the entire project, including new water lines, came in at just under $1 million.
“We are trying to improve the water quality in that area,” Mauldin said. “That old water tank really had not been maintained like it should, so it was taken off line. Then it just became a matter of bringing it down.”
To remove the tank, demolition workers with Columbus Utilities of Fair Bluff attached two wire cables to the 125-foot-tall water tower.
“One of the cables was attached to a skidder and the other cable to a five-ton wrecker,” Maudlin said. “Workers cut the bolts to the back legs of the tower and the wrecker and gravity did the rest.”
Once down, the contractor dismantled the tower and hauled off the remains to sell as scrap metal.
Emergency officials blocked off the streets leading to the plant just before the tank was yanked down. A small crowd of spectators watched from behind a chain-linked fence of the shuttered textile plant. Police were on hand in the event that the area had to be evacuated.
“With something as old as that sucker, you never know what might happen,” Mauldin said minutes before the tank came down. “If something goes wrong, those old rivets could shoot out like shrapnel. We want to take every precaution.”
Workers spent about two hours on final preparations to take the tank down. It took about 15 seconds for the structure to hit the ground.
“The take down was perfect,” Maudlin said. “The only issue is that it fell in the wrong place. It was supposed to fall on a pile a asphalt. Instead it smashed into the corner of the old plant.”
Maudlin said it was too early to determine how much damage had been done to the former manufacturing plant. He said Columbus Utilities is responsible for any damages.
Former Public Works Director George Hall said despite all the precautions, it is always difficult to take down a water tower.
He said a similar demolition near the Red Springs police station in the early 1980s was also problematic.
“There was an issue with that one because the cable actually snapped,” he said. “It wobbled a bit back and forth and finally fell where they wanted. But they thought it might hit the police department. You never can tell.”
But for 8-year-old Victor Sandoval, Friday’s take down seemed perfect. Victor had watched the tower fall with his two younger siblings.
“I wish they could do it again,” he said.