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April 16, 2020

No one injured in Jay mill explosion, but economic impact is unclear

Investigators with the Maine Fire Marshal’s office are looking into the cause of a large explosion Wednesday at a paper mill in Jay, which sent plumes of debris and smoke into the air but miraculously injured no one.

The Androscoggin Mill, which was purchased in February by Pennsylvania-based Pixelle Specialty Solutions LLC, employs about 500 people. About 165 of them were onsite at the time of the explosion, around noon.

A rupture inside a pressure vessel that converts wood chips into paper pulp triggered the blast, according to published reports. But because no workers were in the immediate vicinity, injuries were avoided.

Pixelle acquired the mill and another in Wisconsin, both owned by Verso Corp. (NYSE: VRS), for $400 million. The deal closed Feb. 10 after a contentious dispute with an investor group over plans for the mill and ownership of Verso.

On Wednesday, the explosion brought operations at the mill to temporary halt. Pixelle has not commented on how they may be affected in days to come.

The Professional Logging Contractors of Maine on Wednesday afternoon released a statement, saying, “We are deeply concerned for those, including many of our own members, whose livelihoods will be affected by this event, and we urge support for efforts to rebuild and restart the mill. The mill is a vital market for Maine loggers and truckers, and in the current already challenged economy the good jobs it supports both in the Jay area and at logging and trucking companies across Maine are vital to the future of our state's rural communities.”

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