At the Mill, concrete to become roadways, sidewalks

By Rob Ball

Add “waste not, want not” to redevelopment of the Mill in Vicksburg. Since Oct. 12, a disassembly line of several machines has been crushing concrete left from the demolition of several buildings on the site.

When the crushing is complete, resulting 1-inch aggregate will be used to subsurface parking lots and driveways as redevelopment proceeds. The finished site will include several entertainment venues, a brewpub and brewery museum, dining and lodging.

Mill representatives told village residents in September via email and social media that the crushing operation would begin shortly. “We assumed it might make noise,” said Jackie Koney, the Mill’s chief operating officer. “We wanted to let the community know it was happening.”

There was another reason to tell area residents about the project, Koney said. People were curious. “So many had asked about the big rubble pile.”

The Mill received no complaints, she said.

Frederick Construction’s site superintendent, Ken Coombs, said the large chunks, some containing steel reinforcing rods, are dropped into the first machine, which crushes the chucks to 4-inch pieces and removes some of the steel. A conveyor moves the crushed material into the next machine, which crushes to two inches and removes more steel. A third machine removes the remaining steel and a fourth machine crushes to the final 1-inch size.

Although the crushing isn’t visible, steel removal is: Material emerging from the first machine moves on a short conveyor underneath a magnet. Loose steel on that conveyor visibly jumps up a few inches to the magnet and is ejected into a tangled heap on the ground below.

The crushing project is expected to end this month.

The anticipated total of 1-inch aggregate, a little whimsy included: Weight – 10,000 tons, equivalent to 1,550 elephants. Volume – 7,143 cubic yards, equivalent to 500 dump truck loads. Enough aggregate for 1.8 miles of road, 14.6 miles of sidewalk.

And it’s not enough. More elephants-worth will be needed. How much more hasn’t been determined. “We’re still designing,” Koney said of the site planning.

Most of the concrete has come from foundations of half a dozen buildings demolished since the project began last year. They include Building 17, used mostly for storage and shipping-receiving, a water filtration building, and others used for fire suppression, a powerhouse and a research lab.

Two other mounds closer to W Avenue and the creek are contaminated soil headed for special landfills.

Reuse of the concrete isn’t the only ongoing conservation effort. Koney said water from leaky roofs caused deterioration of interior wood beams and flooring. The wood is being removed carefully; as much as possible will be repurposed. “There’s a chance some wood can be used somewhere else. It could be used for interior design, furniture, some wall decoration.”

And if not used in construction, Koney said, it might be held for a woodworker to turn into products for sale. Some of the machinery is also being saved, perhaps for a display about the mill operation.

Salvaged brick is finding new uses, some of it in a retaining wall along the creek. “We haven’t had to buy new bricks. We’re using bricks from a race track being torn down in Chicago.”

There’s more to conservation than reuse of materials on the site: “We’re pretty sure we’ll use geothermal instead of standard heating,” Koney said. But solar power is a no-go. It’s prohibited for use on buildings on a historic registry.

And on the 80-acre site west of the buildings, Vicksburg High classes have planted a pesticide-free edible forest and pollinator garden. A local farmer has placed beehives on the site. And this year, Koney said, the High School has received a grant to continue the project.

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