Another Piece Of Historic Refinery Crashes Down

By: Natasha Trelfa Email
By: Natasha Trelfa Email

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A refinery, more than 80 years old will come tumbling down Saturday morning, to make room for new growth in North Wichita. The old Derby refinery will be imploded as part of the next step in the 21st street revitalization plan.

"It's fun to watch, it's spectacular, a puff of smoke, a little boom, a very little boom, and it will fall to the ground," said Tom Leasure, general superintendent at Caster Excavating right down the road.

That will be the sight if you're around 21st street and I-135 this weekend, as another part of the old Derby refinery comes down.

"It's always kind of interesting, they don't implode something in the city of Wichita very often," said Leasure.

"What will take place Saturday morning is the removal of six vertical steel columns that supports one of the units within that facility itself," said Richard Wheatley in a phone interview. Wheatley is the meadia manger for El Paso Corp., who owned the refinery.

The refinery, first used in the 1920's, was acquired by a merger between El Paso Corp., out of Houston and Coastal in 2001. The decision to decommission the refinery was made just a few years later. One of its units was brought down in 2005.

"The refinery site is being decommissioned because El Paso is no longer in the refinery and marketing business of crude oil," said Wheatley.

Those around the area said they're not exactly sad to see it go.

"It is and has been an eye sore for a long time and part of the 21st street revitalization program will make this non functional refinery go away," said Leasure.

But just what will happen to the property is up in the air. While it's part of the revitalization plan, don't look for any development just yet. A statement from Allen Bell, urban development director with the city says "the property has significant pollution from the petroleum that has seeped into the soil."
The city also says it could be 5 to 10 years before the property is ready for redevelopment.

But no matter what, or when, development takes place, other workers in the area say it's going to be a piece of land loaded with potential.

"It's a good location, easy access off the interstate, it's a good piece of property," said Leasure.

Law enforcement will block off parts of 21st and New York early Saturday morning.

The implosion will happen around 7:00 a.m. Saturday.

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