International Paper resumes operations after digester explosion

By Jenny Eagle

- Last updated on GMT

International Paper makes beverage cups among other packaging. Picture: International Paper.
International Paper makes beverage cups among other packaging. Picture: International Paper.
International Paper has resumed operations at its Pensacola Mill in Cantonment, Florida, following a digester explosion.

The incident, which is estimated to have cost the company between $80m and $120m, which it will claim back in insurance, happened on January 22.

Health & Safety

Tim Nicholls, SVP, International Paper, said thanks to an independent third-party it has improved health and safety procedures to stop such an incident happening again.

BeverageDaily reported in January​, the explosion which originated in a 'digester' at the plant caused a ‘sea of black liquor’, a byproduct of the paper manufacturing process, to run down the street affecting cars and properties in the area covering a 10-mile radius around the facility.

No one was injured in the incident but the clean-up process took two months.

"We are pleased to report that full operations at our Pensacola site have resumed​," said Nicholls.

"Our primary focus remains on ensuring the health and safety of our employees, contractors and community along with providing our customers the excellent service they have come to expect​."

Cleaning crews were called on to the site following the incident in biohazard suits to pump the debris and water from the streets’ drains into trucks.

An outreach team from International Paper claimed to have gone to 120 houses offering assistance. Some residents were offered alternative accommodation in hotels.

Environmental concerns

Many of the residents said they don’t blame the mill for the accident, but they are concerned about a lack of forthcoming information on environmental impact and health concerns.

A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) filed by International Paper claims black liquor can cause severe skin burns and eye damage; it is toxic to aquatic life; it can be corrosive to the respiratory tract and can corrode metals.

International Paper said at the time; ‘The incident released a mixture of wood fiber, water and pulping liquor into the surrounding community. We have engaged contractors to develop and implement plans to clean up and dispose of the discharged material as quickly as possible. We are providing all necessary support and resources to our local community and residents as we work through the clean-up​.’

International Paper has manufacturing operations in North America, Europe, Latin America, Russia, Asia and North Africa. Its businesses include industrial and consumer packaging, uncoated papers and pulp. 

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