Androscoggin Mill restarts two paper machines

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JAY – Two paper machines at the Androscoggin Mill resumed operations Wednesday, roughly a week after an explosion damaged the facility’s pulp operation.

According to a press release provided by Pixelle Specialty Solutions spokesperson Roxie Lassetter, Human Resources manager for the mill, the A4 and A5 paper machines were restarted Wednesday.

“The A4 and A5 machines are now running 24×7 and customer service and sales personnel are taking orders from customers,” the company said in the release.

A ruptured digester in the facility’s pulp mill is the suspected cause of the April 15 explosion. The blast sent debris hundreds of feet into the air above the mill, showering the area in a mixture of wood fiber, water and chemicals associated with the digester process. No one was in the immediate vicinity of the digester when it exploded and no serious injuries were reported. According to information collected by the State Fire Marshal’s Office with assistance from Jay police, mill employees manually shut down valves following the explosion and helped prevent further damage.

““Our team in Androscoggin has performed exceptionally,” Tim Hess, Pixelle President and Chief Executive Officer, said as part of the company’s statement. “First and foremost, we will always remember that immediately following the rupture, they utilized their training, skill, and bravery to safely shut down operations. Likewise, we will always be grateful there were no injuries, and no environmental impact.”

“Next, we salute the determination that our employees exhibited in evaluating what needed to be done to safely restore manufacturing operations and executing their plan expertly in a matter of days,” Hess went on to say.

The mill will utilize pulp produced at Pixelle mills in Chillicothe, Ohio and Spring Grove, Penn. as well as additional pulp that will be purchased from local mills. The mill’s on-site pulping equipment has the capacity to process the incoming pulp, Pixelle said, while recent investments in refining equipment will allow the machines to produce at normal quality and output levels.

Pixelle said that the mill will continue assessing the explosion, clean up the site when conditions allow and evaluate options for future, long-term pulp production. While the clean-up and evaluation of the site are taking place, a third machine, which produces non-specialty grades of paper, will not be operated.

Hess concluded his statement by thanking first responders and others for their efforts.

“Finally, we are grateful for the first responders; local, state and federal authorities, and our neighboring paper mills for their assistance,” Hess said. “Thanks to the efforts of many, this mill will continue supplying the majority of our valued customers.”

Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere said that the town continued to be “amazed” at the resiliency of the mill and its employees, in an email sent Thursday.

“We are so thankful that no one was injured last week and our thoughts continue to be with them as they complete their ongoing assessments and make plans for the future,” LaFreniere said. “The fact that they were able to get the two paper machines back online in such a short period speaks volumes to the dedication of Pixelle and the Androscoggin employees.”

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