Pixelle Specialty Solutions’ Androscoggin Mill is back in operation after a dramatic explosion but the loss of its pulp operation is going to hurt loggers and truckers.
Two of the mill’s three paper machines restarted last week but pulp is being provided from other mills for the time being, hurting the loggers and truckers who provided the raw material that’s transformed into paper.
“It’s not going to be good,” Randy Kimball, co-owner of Kimball & Son’s Logging and Trucking in Poland, told the Sun Journal. The operation delivers approximately 3,200 tons, or 97 truckloads, to this mill each year.
The April 15 blast happened in a large, kettle-like digester in which a slurry of wood chips, water and chemicals is transformed into pulp.
When it was in operation, the mill’s pulp operation used between 1 million and 1.5 million tons of logs, chips and biomass each year, amounting to 150 to 175 truckloads a day, said Dana Doran, executive director of Professional Logging Contractors of Maine.
Compounding the loss, Pixelle could be forced to sell off wood already harvested for the mill, which could add up to as much as 750,000 tons of wood, creating a temporary glut that further hurts loggers and truckers, Doran said.
Businesses across the region are affected from Kittery to Fort Kent, Doran said.
“These are severe losses for businesses already struggling, and they are happening everywhere,” Doran said.
The loss of the pulp market and slow housing starts because of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic are big problems.
But Chrissy Kimball, the other co-owner of Kimball & Son’s, said people who make their living from the woods will find a way to move forward despite the problems.
“Loggers, by nature are extremely resourceful,” she said.
The Androscoggin Mill employed 500 people at the time of the explosion. The mill, which was built in the mid-1960s, changed ownership in February when it was sold by Ohio-based Verso to Pennsylvania-based Pixelle. Authorities have said no one was injured, though some people suffered respiratory distress during the blast.