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OSHA Clears International Paper Of Any Fault Regarding Explosion

Sandra Averhart
WUWF Public Media

International Paper is off the hook with the feds, over last January’s explosion at its Cantonment plant.

The company will not be fined or otherwise sanctioned by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In a letter sent to International Paper, OSHA confirmed that the cause of the blast was a buildup of gases in a pulp digester, which took out the device along with a power house.

Plant Manager Brett DeJong said just after the incident that the rupture caused the release of a mixture of wood, wood chips and a liquid known as “black liquor.”

“It’s actually produced when the cooking chemicals are consumed during the cooking process,” DeJong said. “The purpose of the cooking chemicals is to dissolve the glue that’s present in wood chips that we process. And dissolving that glue allows us to separate the fibers and actually make the paper products that we make.”

There were no injuries, and full operations resumed in April. In an email, a spokeswoman for IP says they’re reviewing the letter’s findings with no comment forthcoming.

The explosion caused an estimated $50 million in damage; insurance covered most of that. Cleanup of the wood pulp material in the surrounding area took several weeks to complete.

In the letter, OSHA acknowledged IP’s plan to reduce the introduction of gases into the digester. The agency’s also encouraging the firm to share information on the risk of explosion, with the rest of the paper-making industry.