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Pier demolition becomes more obvious as giant excavator chews through concrete

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The St. Pete Pier has its first obvious blemish on the exterior of the inverted pyramid. A giant, orange excavator set up at the Pier head began chewing through concrete on the top floor of the building next to the elevator shaft at about 12:30 Monday afternoon.

The excavator — so big it had to be assembled on-site — reached into the air from a controller on the ground, biting at bits of construction through metal jaws that can crush 30-inch concrete in only 30 seconds. With each nibble of the inverted pyramid, rubble fell to the ground as pieces of construction material dangled below.

When the machine moved away from the building there was a hole where concrete once was. Compared to the inverted pyramid’s massive size, the hole looks small. However, it is likely a good 20-feet wide – if not more.

The demolition will be a slow process, with total demolition of the structure at the Pier head expected to take about six weeks. A St. Pete company called SquareMouth is hosting a 24/7 live feed of the site to monitor progress and will offer monthly time-lapse videos showing progress beginning this month. The city plans to provide weekly time-lapse videos as well.

A graphic created by a Tampa Bay Times sketch artist and Sonny Glassbrenner officials who are heading demolition shows a complete time frame of demolition that will see the entire Pier completely dismantled and recycled by February.

Demolition of the Pier head and approach is expected to begin October 1. Concrete from the Pier will be trucked to Albert Whitted Airport between October and January to shore up the aging sea wall.

Crews installed a turbidity barrier last week around the Pier head intended to protect sea-grass beds. It traps any concrete dust falling into the bay from settling outside areas covered by the Pier where sea-grass beds grow. There isn’t sea grass under the pier and sediment will simply settle at the bottom of the Bay inside the turbidity barrier.

Other environmental safeguards are also in place. An engineering firm will monitor the Bay up to 450 feet past the Pier site. If turbidity levels become too high, demolition will stop.

The entire demolition project came with a $3.2 million price tag.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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