IP releases explosion cause

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, March 15, 2017

An explosive atmosphere was the cause of the International Paper mill explosion in Cantonment, Fla., according to preliminary findings, which were released on March 9.

The explosion, which occurred on Jan. 22, 2017, caused major damage to the mill’s pulp digester and the powerhouse. The mill sat idle for about a week until power was restored.

As a result of the explosion, partially digested wood pulp material was released, effecting area neighborhoods and spawning a massive clean up effort.

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“The findings indicate that an explosive atmosphere was created by a combination of off-gasses normally produced in the pulping process and air introduced to maintain pressure while the vessel was not in operation,” IP Director of Corporate Communications Tom Ryan said in a release. “The explosive nature of the off-gasses and air combination was likely related to the extended period of mill down time prior to the incident where no chips and liquor were flowing into the digester. The gas mixture, combined with one of several possible ignition sources, provided the necessary components for the incident. The unusual set of circumstances set in motion a chain of events unlike any that International Paper had ever seen or heard of. The company has implemented enhanced procedures and protections across the entire mill system and has also taken the step to share this information industry-wide, to ensure enhanced safety measures are in place across the entire industry.”

In addition, Ryan said the clean up process of homes is complete.

“We continue to have very close contact with community members,” he said. “Our information line has been set up for several weeks.”

Those who would like to contact IP may do so at 850-968-4208. The purpose of the information line is to address questions or concerns from area residents.

“We continue to actively address questions and concerns from residents,” Ryan said.

As Cantonment Mill Manager, Brett De Jong, has said, “International Paper remains committed to the entire remediation effort. We are not going anywhere. We are going to be here.”

As for the mill, all team members are back to work and have been since the incident occurred. A portion of the mill has been restarted.