The final stages of returning the once-polluted Cuyahoga River in Ohio to its pre-industrial splendor included the removal of the Sheraton Mill Dam and the LeFever Dam that once provided hydroelectric power for thriving local industries. RiverReach Construction, specialists in environmental stream and wetland restoration projects, peformed the demolition task quickly and efficiently using Atlas Copco hydraulic breakers equipped with underwater kits.
For breakers, RiverReach Construction, Norton, Ohio, consulted Columbus Equipment Company, an authorized Atlas Copco distributor. The company equipped RiverReach with a heavy duty Atlas Copco HB 3100 and a much more compact Atlas Copco SB 552. An Atlas Copco XAS 185 compressor supplied a flow of compressed air to prevent water entering the percussion mechanisms of the breakers.
Demolition of the dams was directed by Greg Guello, a manager at RiverReach. The first was the 12 meter (40ft.) long, 3 meter (10ft.) high Sheraton Mill dam. It had to be approached from upstream and Guello’s solution was to set a mini-excavator, with the SB 552 breaker attached, on a modular barge and float it into place just behind the dam.
Operator Shannon Swaino began by using the SB 552 to open up “windows” and let the water flow downstream. The water level behind the dam then gradually sank. Next, Swaino entered the river with a 36-ton excavator and the powerful HB 3100. The dam came down in a day. “It was almost too easy with that big breaker,” said Swaino.
Next to be tackled was LeFever Dam – 27.4 meters (90ft.) across and nearly 4 meters (13ft.) high, with a significantly larger volume of water behind it. RiverReach was able to construct an access to the river at the start and Swaino could approach it from the downstream side, so no barge was needed and the job was completed quickly.
The removal of the dams exposed the Cuyahoga River’s white-water rapids and waterfalls, which have been hidden from the local residents for a hundred years, and received huge media coverage.
Once the demolition phase was complete, RiverReach cleaned up debris that had gathered over the years, as well as remnants of concrete and rebar. They then created protective concrete support walls for the old powerhouses, which will guard the valued historic structures from fluctuations in river flow and the debris that crashes by during high water events.