Two towering smokestacks presided over Springdale and Cheswick boroughs for years. Their heights rivaled that of skyscrapers in downtown Pittsburgh; their open tops spewed plumes from the coal burned at their base, which brought electricity to communities along the Allegheny River for generations. 

But on Friday, at 8 a.m. sharp, explosives placed in hundreds of small holes drilled into the foundation of each chimney detonated, and the two towers — one each 750 and 552 feet tall with 3-foot-thick cement walls — came clattering to the ground in a cloud of dust and rubble.

YouTube video
The smokestacks at the former Cheswick Generating Station in Springdale fall to the ground during the implosion of the stacks on Friday, June 2, 2023, as seen from Barking Slopes across the Allegheny River in New Kensington. (Video by Stephanie Strasburg/PublicSource)

The controlled demolition came more than a year after the power plant shuttered in April 2022, and its implosion marks the end of an era — a nail in the coffin for coal-burned power in Allegheny County that brought a mix of emotions. 

“Nostalgia is most of it,” said Paul Pastierik, who was born and raised in the house nearest the plant on Garfield Street in Springdale. “It was a symbol.”

His father worked in the plant for 25 years and died of lung cancer in his sixties. When he came home, he “looked like he was working in a coal mine,” Pastierik said.

A meandering line of people stand along a grassy hillside overlooking a cloud of dust as they gather along Barking Slopes to watch the implosion of the smokestacks at the former Cheswick Power Plant in Springdale on Friday, June 2, 2023, in New Kensington. (Photo by Stephanie Strasburg/PublicSource)
People gather along Barking Slopes in New Kensington as a cloud of debris drifts along the Allegheny River after the implosion of the smokestacks at the former Cheswick Generating Station in Springdale on Friday, June 2, 2023. (Photo by Stephanie Strasburg/PublicSource)

His mother was referred to by her grandchildren as “grandma smokestacks.”

“Some people complained about the dirt,” he added. “I was born under that stack, and I’m still here.” 

“I miss it already,” said Darryl Banas, standing in a rose garden outside the home his father bought just over a block from the plant in 1946. “What source of electricity is going to replace it?”

Workers gather outside the PPG Industries Springdale Plant to watch the demolition of the Cheswick Generating Station smokestacks on June 2, 2023. (Photo by Quinn Glabicki/PublicSource)

At full capacity, the plant generated 565 megawatts of power — roughly 3% of the state’s overall energy needs. This power production was not without its cost, however.

In 2021, the plant emitted more than 1.56 million tons of carbon dioxide. That’s the equivalent of around 315,000 cars on the road

Nationally, fossil fuel-based generating plants account for a quarter of United States carbon emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], and are responsible for the second-largest volume of greenhouse gasses behind only transportation. 

The Cheswick Generating Station’s demolition comes just a month after the EPA proposed unprecedented new federal regulations for coal-fired power plants which, if passed into law, could significantly curtail emissions. The EPA projected that the new rules would eliminate up to 617 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2042, or the equivalent emissions of about half the cars on the road in the United States today.

Across the region, coal-fired power plants have announced impending closures. Most recently, the Homer City Power Plant and Conemaugh Generating Station in Indiana County and the Keystone Power Plant in Armstrong County have said they will close operations. 

Operators cited the rising price of coal, low natural gas prices and increasingly stringent environmental regulations, like those proposed by the EPA in May, as contributing factors behind their decisions.

In Cheswick, nostalgia, relief and questions

Karen Wessel stood in front of the home of a friend who was having a watch party, waiting for the big boom. “It’s the end of an era,” she said, handing out cookies decorated with an image of the two smokestacks. “But it’s making room for progress.” 

“I grew up here my whole life,” she said. “I’m ready for a change.”

Karen Wessel offers cookies bearing the image of the Cheswick Generating Station’s smokestacks. (Photo by Quinn Glabicki/PublicSource)

When operational, the Cheswick Plant was one of the top sources of pollution in Allegheny County. The plant faced a number of lawsuits in recent years relating to air and water pollution at the site. 

In 2019, the Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania chapter brought a lawsuit accusing the plant’s parent company, the Texas-based GenOn Holdings, of illegally discharging overheated water.

The station was originally founded in 1920 by Duquesne Light Company, and the first of the modern chimneys was constructed by 1970. In 2021, GenOn Holdings sold the facility to the Kentucky-based ash remediation company Charah Solutions, which spent the past year preparing the site for demolition

Plans for the site remain up in the air. Last month, the Springdale Borough Planning Commission recommended that the site be rezoned for residential use. Charah Solutions, however, requested that the site maintain its current zoning for industrial and commercial use.

An hour before its demolition, the Cheswick Generating Station smokestacks rest behind a neighborhood in Springdale on June 2, 2023. (Photo by Quinn Glabicki/PublicSource)

The planning commission hopes that residential zoning could spur housing development in the borough, according to minutes from its March 8 meeting.

Representatives from Charah contended then that if the site is rezoned to be residential, it would be unusable. During the planning commission meeting on May 10, representatives from the company told the commission that existing environmental conditions on the site — including underground structures remaining after the demolition — make residential building an impossibility.

If the site were to be rezoned for residential use, these environmental factors, combined with the financial investment Charah has already put into the site, would constitute an unconstitutional regulatory taking of property, the company contended.  

The borough council has not yet acted on the rezoning recommendation.

Darryl Banas stands outside his home in Springdale, watching plumes of dust settle moments after the Cheswick Generating Station smokestacks were demolished on June 2, 2023. “I miss it already,” he said. (Photo by Quinn Glabicki/PublicSource)

Quinn Glabicki is the environment and climate reporter at PublicSource and a Report for America corps member. He can be reached at and on Twitter and Instagram @quinnglabicki.

Lucas Dufalla is an editorial intern with PublicSource and can be reached at

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Quinn Glabicki is a writer and photographer covering climate and environment for PublicSource. He is also a Report for America corps member. Quinn uses visual and written mediums to tell stories about...