The former Verso Paper mill located in Jay, Maine, exploded on Wednesday, April 15, at around noon local time. Photos and videos of the explosion were shared on Twitter showing large plumes of smoke rising into the air from the mill, also known as the Androscoggin Mill.
Multiple fire departments and emergency crew have responded to the explosion, including the Maine State Police and the Office of State Fire Marshal. Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland initially told WMTW News there were multiple injuries. But authorities now say there were no injuries or deaths and all of the workers at the mill have been accounted for. A LifeFlight helicopter was sent to the mill as a precaution.
WARNING: The video below includes R-rated language which may not be appropriate for young audiences.
An employee of the Hannaford, which is located two miles away from the paper mill in Jay, reported that debris from the mill’s explosion wafted high enough into the sky to land across the street. One person on Twitter wrote, “Explosion at the Androscoggin Paper Mill in Jay, Maine. My son is an RN at a Lewiston hospital and has been put on standby to help with a mass casualty incident.”
Thankfully, Maine State Police sent out an update on Wednesday saying that all employees accounted for and that owners said that were no injuries and no deaths.
Franklin County Sheriff’s Department told News Center Maine that entrances to the mill on Crash Road and Riley Road have been shut down to traffic.
The Androscoggin Mill, which has about 500 employees, produces can an estimated 425,000 tons of paper per year, as well as flexible packaging papers, release liner base, specialty labels, kraft papers, and liner board
The Verso Paper Mill Was Sold To Pixelle Specialty Solutions In February 2020
The Androscoggin Mill is now owned by Pixelle Specialty Solutions LLC, which purchased the business in February 2020, according to the Press Herald. Pixelle is a paper manufacturer based in Pennsylvania that also purchased Verso’s Stevens Point Mill located in Wisconsin. The Ohio-based Verso Corporation sold both mills for a total of $400 million, making Pixelle the biggest paper business in the nation.
Following the purchase, Pixelle CEO Timothy Hess said in a statement: “Customers now have access to the specialty papers industry’s largest assembly of technical expertise, product knowledge, skilled labor and production capabilities. At this industry-leading scale, we can provide customers with advanced capabilities such as barrier coatings, customized coating technologies, release and casting chemistries, inkjet innovations, document security, and short-run custom colors.”
Verso was also pleased with the sale. Company CEO Adam St. John put out the following official statement: “We are pleased to have completed the sale of our Androscoggin and Stevens Point mills to Pixelle. After the transaction, we will continue to be a debt-free company with significant manufacturing and financial flexibility, well-positioned to enhance our competitive market position, effectively respond to industry trends and take advantage of low-risk, high-return opportunities that should create long-term value for all of our stakeholders.”
The Cause of The Explosion Is Under Investigation
Alan Ulman, a spokesman for Pixelle Specialty Solutions, said they were in the midst of figuring out what caused the explosion.
“We are obviously researching it,” he told News Center Maine. “We promptly implemented emergency response procedures. There are multiple emergency personnel at the scene. Obviously, our first concern is to verify that the employees are accounted for, and we have no definitive information yet. Our second priority is to determine any environmental impact to the surrounding area and again, I have no definitive information yet.”
Maine’s Governor Janet Mills has been apprised of the emergency situation and put out the following statement:
I am closely monitoring all information concerning the explosion at the Androscoggin Mill in Jay. Officials with the Department of Public Safety are on scene, along with first responders, and more are on the way. I will be in close contact with public safety officials regarding further developments and to direct all necessary State resources.
I urge Maine people to stay far away from the scene, to stay safe and to allow first responders to work as quickly as they can. I ask the people of Maine to join me in praying for the safety and wellbeing of all those in and around this historic mill. In this already difficult moment, let us summon the strength and resilience which has defined us as Maine people throughout our history and which has sustained us and carried us through our most challenging times.