Vincent Fiumidinisi is plant manager of Bridgeport Harbor Station Unit 3, which is retiring from service this week. Vincent helps us reflect on the plants long and important history in the region.
Tell us a little bit about your history with Bridgeport Harbor Station.
I’ve been part of Bridgeport Harbor Station for 35 years, starting as a fuel handler and working my way up through various positions over the years. Unit 3 went commercial in 1968. It was built to burn fuel oil and coal, but didn’t start to use coal as its fuel supply until 1985. Coal had become the cheapest fuel available, so it was an economic decision. It was then that the plants hired a tremendous number of new employees to support coal operations. That’s how I got hired.
What has it been like to work at BHS and to be part of the Bridgeport community?
This station has been part of the Bridgeport community since the early 1950s. From the day I arrived, this plant – regardless of ownership – was always active in the community. We supported the Barnum Festival Parade, which was a big event, and the United Way. We supported veterans groups, blood drives. This plant has always been very community-oriented.
How does it feel to see the retirement of BHS 3?
There are mixed emotions. The people who work here, they’ve made their living here for 30 or 40 years. Power plant workers have a tendency to think of the machine as a family member; they grow to care for it. That’s always been the atmosphere. As we get closer to the retirement date, there is excitement for people who are moving on to new challenges, and there is some sadness because the unit is no longer going to be part of the community.
As we get closer, I’ve gotten a lot of requests from retirees for one last walk-through, and I’ve been accommodating of those requests – following all of the COVID-19 protocols and safety rules. There are a lot of memories.
What will happen to BHS 3’s stack, which is a local landmark?
That stack is 497 feet tall, and it can be seen for a 20-mile radius. There have been a lot of questions about whether the stack will remain – and for the time being it will because it’s part of the region’s FAA charts; pilots use it a landmark to land at a nearby airport.
What does the plant’s retirement mean to the community?
This coal plant is one of the cleanest in the Northeast and the U.S. But people understand the business is moving in a different direction. What’s sad is that this coal plant is environmentally sound and efficient and it meets all standards at the federal level. However, it’s also understood that, at 52 years, the unit is at the end of its life.
BHS 3 had an exciting winter. Tell us about that.
We ran for 43 consecutive days, from Jan. 8 to Feb. 20. That’s unusual because we’re a peaking unit and only called to run where there is a market need for us to operate. The workforce did a fantastic job. Our people were able to maintain the unit, keep it safe. Union and management, working together, stepped up to the challenge and they did an outstanding job. I’m very proud of what they were able to accomplish. We also had tremendous support from the teams at New Haven Harbor and Bridgeport Harbor Station Unit 5.
What will you remember most about this time?
This has been a very dedicated workforce, to commit to stay all the way until the end. They have a lot of pride, and a sense of performance and accomplishment, based off that last run. It was worth it. It was very successful. This workforce is very committed to this unit. They were very happy that the unit was able to accomplish that final run. The miles that they put in here to make that happen was just remarkable.