Rocked by a digester explosion in mid-April, the Pixelle Androscoggin Mill in Jay has now brought back most of its staff . It also has started producing a new specialty paper for the insulation industry on its A5 paper machine.
About 425 employees are back at the mill working on mill operations or on recovery, site security or preservation operations, said Heath Frye, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania-based mill owner Pixelle Specialty Solutions. There were 486 workers in mid-April. Inspectors, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, are still assessing why the digester exploded.
“We are still conducting the investigation and expect it to take many months before we know the long-term plan for the mill,” Frye said.
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The mill, which is a major contributor to the local workforce and economy in Jay, shut briefly after the explosion on April 15. Pixelle had completed its purchase of the mill only two months before as part of a $400 million deal with Verso Corp. The explosion did not affect the paper machines, and the A4 and A5 machines were restarted a week later on April 23 after Pixelle was able to source pulp from its other operations and from local paper companies including Sappi.
Last Thursday, Pixelle said it was making a new product on the A5 machine called the GlazeStar NK that is used as a paper backing for building insulation.
“This product should give us solid market growth,” said Bob van Helden, vice president of specialty papers at Pixelle’s Stevens Point, Wisconsin, location. “It’s a solid product, but it won’t fill the whole machine.”
The A5 paper machine also is making other Glaze-brand products including an oil and grease wrap for food packaging and a wrap for feminine products.
The new paper, which is attached to fiber insulation, is strong and porous and adheres well to the insulation material, Van Helden said. Those characteristics mean the insulation is durable and energy-efficient, he said.
Twenty-four Jay mill workers are assigned to the A5 paper machine, Frye said. That’s four crews of six operators for round-the-clock operations seven days a week. Another 10 to 15 people are support employees for maintenance, technical aspects and laboratory work on the A5 machine.
Watch: A Jay paper mill explodes