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Verso paper mill assessing damage after train carrying paper derailed

Kevin Bennett | BDN
Kevin Bennett | BDN
Maine Department of Transportation wokers and Pan Am Railroad workers clear damaged pavement from the traffic lane near the intersection of Kenny Lane and Route 15 in Bucksport on Sunday, July 29, 2012, after a train carrying paper products overturned.
By Mario Moretto, BDN Staff

BUCKSPORT, Maine — After the second derailment in about as many months of a train going to or from the Verso mill, the papermaking plant is concerned.

The train that derailed early Sunday afternoon was carrying paper from Verso Paper Corp. when it went off the tracks at the intersection of Route 15, said Bill Cohen, a Verso spokesman.

One car overturned in the accident, and many more derailed, tearing up Route 15 as their metal wheels dug into the pavement. The stretch of road near the railroad intersection was closed to traffic until late Sunday evening.

Cohen said he couldn’t confirm how much paper was on the train, but said Verso was working with Pan Am Railways — which owns the tracks and operates the train — to assess how much product was damaged in the derailment.

The stretch of rail connects the mill to Bangor, where it connects with routes headed as far north as Madawaska and as far south as New Haven, Conn. Cohen said accidents such as Sunday’s derailment can leave the mill anxious about supply routes in and out of the sprawling Bucksport complex.

“There have been multiple derailments on the line between the mill and Bangor, and the railroad knows how important that line is,” he said Monday. “Obviously, any time we lose product or have problems getting supplies in and out — it doesn’t matter if it’s a rail problem or a truck or anything else — it’s a concern to us.”

The Federal Railroad Administration had sent an inspector to the site, said FRA spokesman Rob Kulat, but because the accident caused less than $1 million in damage and no one was hurt, the derailment did not trigger an FRA investigation into the accident.

Kulat said Pan Am Railways would likely conduct its own investigation into the derailment.

“There are a thousand reasons that derailments happen,” he said Monday. “The railroads always do their own internal analysis, just as good business practice.”

A representative from Pan Am Railways did not return a call for comment Monday.

On May 25, a Pan Am Railways train derailed near the Bucksport-Orrington town line, spilling 4,000 to 6,000 pounds of papermaking chemicals into the Penobscot River.

From January 2002 to April 2012, there have been 63 train derailments in Maine, according to the FRA’s Office of Safety Analysis. On Pan Am Railways lines, there were 27 in the same period.

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

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