Pixelle Specialty Solutions has sued a Florida contractor over poor welds it claims caused an explosion at its Jay mill in April 2020.
The Pennsylvania-based papermaker called Trico Mechanical Contractors Inc.’s work “deficient, negligent and failed to meet industry standards” in a lawsuit filed in Franklin County Superior Court on April 15, the anniversary of the blast that rocked the mill’s campus, according to the Lewiston Sun Journal.
Trico’s work at the Jay mill predated Pixelle’s acquisition from Verso Paper, which sold the mill and its Steven’s Point Mill in Wisconsin as part of a $400 million deal that closed two months before the blast.
In 2018 and 2019, Trico inspected, serviced and repaired the mill’s pulp digesters, including fixing welds and seams. Trico told Pixelle that work brought the digesters to an acceptable condition, the newspaper reported.
But on April 15, 2020, digester A failed “catastrophically” when welds failed to hold, causing it to rupture, eject debris and fall onto digester B. Both digesters were destroyed and mill buildings, equipment and inventory were also damaged.
As a result of the explosion, Pixelle opted to not rebuild the pulp digesters and idled one of its three paper machines. The mill’s workforce dropped to 250 full-time workers from 468 before the blast.
The mill now purchases the pulp needed for papermaking, according to the Sun Journal.
Pixelle requested that the lawsuit go to trial and is seeking to recover damages from Trico.