Paper mill is back in business after dramatic explosion

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Maine Today Media

A massive explosion at the Androscoggin Mill in Jay, Maine, Wednesday April 15, 2020 ripped apart the plant owned by Pixelle Specialty Paper Solutions. The explosion shook the ground Wednesday and produced a plume of black smoke that was visible for miles around, but it appeared no one was injured. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal via AP)

JAY, Maine – A paper mill disabled by a dramatic explosion caught on video last week has resumed production with two of its three paper machines, officials said Thursday.

The restart of Pixelle Specialty Solutions’ Androscoggin Mill in Jay followed a blast that happened in a large, kettle-like digester in which a slurry of wood chips, water and chemicals is transformed into pulp. An assessment of what caused the rupture continues.

The two paper machines, which restarted Wednesday, are using pulp produced at other Pixelle mills in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and supplemented by purchases from others, the company said.

The Spring Grove, Pennsylvania-based company is assessing options for long-term pulp production at the plant.

Tim Hess, Pixelle's president and CEO, said Thursday he was thankful that no one was hurt and that there was no environmental damage. Workers managed to safely shut down the mill to prevent further damage, he said.

He thanked first responders in addition to workers.

"Thanks to the efforts of many, this mill will continue supplying the majority of our valued customers,” Hess said in a statement.

The Androscoggin Mill, which employed 500 people at the time of the explosion April 15, has been a survivor as other paper mills closed at the cost of thousands of jobs in Maine. A Pixelle spokesman could not say how many people were working at the mill on Thursday.