By DONALD WITTKOWSKI and MADDY VITALE
First, were the jarring boom, boom, boom sounds as a series of explosions tore through the former B.L. England power plant overlooking the Great Egg Harbor Bay.
The ground shook as the shock wave created by the building’s thunderous implosion reverberated for miles across the picturesque bay Friday morning.
Then, a cloud of grayish-black smoke enveloped the site as if to cover it with a gigantic blanket.
But the building and the old boiler units for the plant were gone – destroyed in mere seconds – much to the delight of onlookers who took in the spectacle from different vantage points around the bay.
“I’m amazed by how quickly it came down,” said Donna Sinclair, who, along with her husband, Steve, watched the implosion from the Somers Point side of the bay.
Video courtesy of Martin Fiedler, Just Right TV Productions.
When the huge plume of smoke dissipated minutes later, all that was left of the boiler units was a mountain of rubble.
Built in 1961 and closed since 2019, the B.L. England plant site on the Upper Township side of the bay is being eyed for redevelopment once the old structures are cleared away.
In September, another implosion destroyed the plant’s former cooling tower. The implosion of the old building and boiler units on Friday was the next step.
The implosion of the plant’s landmark 475-foot-tall smokestack, built in 1987, is expected to happen in June.
The rest of the smaller structures still remaining on the site are expected to be mechanically demolished by the Beesley’s Point Development Group LLC.
“Great care, preparation and notification has been taken leading up to the event to assure local and state compliance as well as safety of the community,” the development company said in a statement in advance of Friday’s implosion.
Beesley’s Point Development Group bought the site in 2021 and has discussed the possibility of building a marina, a hotel, restaurants, retail shops and homes, while also preserving some of the ecologically sensitive wetlands on the 350-acre tract.
Friday’s implosion drew crowds of onlookers on both the Somers Point and Upper Township sides of the bay. Boaters also watched, although there was a safety zone set up in the bay to restrict access on the water.
Sunny weather provided the perfect conditions for viewing the implosion – as well as for taking photos and video.
Chrissy Neely and her father, Warren, who have a second home in Ocean View and are volunteer firefighters there, said they wanted to see the implosion because everyone was talking about it.
“It was the topic of conversation last night among the firefighters, so we figured we would come by and see it,” Chrissy said.
She noted that she didn’t recall when the plant was last in full operation.
But her father did.
“I remember it well when it was a working plant,” Warren said, adding that they were curious to see the implosion.
Donna and Steve Sinclair relaxed in beach chairs while watching the implosion unfold. They even brought their dog, Sparky. The Sinclairs, who live in Williamstown, N.J., and have a weekend home in Ocean City, were among dozens of onlookers at a small park area on the Somers Point side of the bay.
“We’re looking forward to seeing a massive implosion of a plant that’s been empty for 150 years,” Steve Sinclair said with a laugh while exaggerating B.L. England’s history as a local landmark.
Donna Sinclair noted that the derelict plant had become badly deteriorated in recent years and was overdue for implosion.
“I bet they will be glad it’s coming down,” she said of the local residents. “It’s an eyesore.”
Afterward, the Sinclairs expressed their pleasure with the implosion.
“The noise was great,” Steve Sinclair said of how much he enjoyed the explosive booms.