Wreckage smolders at the Androscoggin Mill after an explosion at the paper mill, Wednesday, April 15, 2020, in Jay, Maine. The explosion shook the ground and produced a plume of black smoke that was visible for miles around.(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Explosion caught on video shatters paper mill; no one hurt

April 15, 2020 - 4:01 pm

JAY, Maine (AP) — An explosion at a paper mill in Maine shook the ground Wednesday and produced a plume of black smoke that was visible for miles around, but it appeared no one was injured.

The blast rocked the Androscoggin Mill in Jay, in central Maine, around noon, state police spokesman Steve McCausland said. Mill personnel told police no one was injured, he said.

A rising cloud of smoke that was recorded by a bystander was followed by raining debris that made bullet-like noise as it struck cars in the area. Video recorded after the explosion showed extensive damage to the mill, which employs about 500 people and is a key piece of rural Maine's economy.

Emergency responders rushed to the mill, and the state fire marshal planned an investigation. The cause wasn’t clear to investigators, McCausland said.

Mill spokesperson Roxie Lassetter said the company was in the preliminary stages of assessing what happened and evaluating the environmental impact. The explosion released a mixture of wood fiber, water and chemicals, and the company is taking steps to restore order to the mill site, Lassetter said.

Gov. Janet Mills urged residents to stay far from the scene, issuing an emailed statements asking residents to “join me in praying for the safety and wellbeing of all those in and around the historic mill.”

The mill had been sold in February by Ohio-based Verso Paper to a specialty paper producer in Pennsylvania.

Pixelle Specialty Solutions, of Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, acquired both the Jay mill and another mill in Wisconsin in a $400 million deal. Pixelle said at the time that the deal would make it the largest specialty paper business in the U.S. in terms of annual production.

"We ask for everyone’s continued prayers through this and will update information once it is available. We are also asking that you stay away from the area and allow the crews to work,” said Shiloh LaFreniere, spokeswoman for Pixelle.

The mill was built in the mid-1960s in Jay, which today is a community of about 5,000 people. It is about 70 miles north of Portland.

Maine Senate President Troy Jackson said the state will need to support the community and its workforce in the wake of such a major blow.

“To the 500 mill workers, who showed up to work today expecting it to be an ordinary day, I know that this is devastating and that the next few hours, days and weeks won’t be easy," he said.


Associated Press writer David Sharp contributed to this report.

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