BERLIN, N.H. (AP) – For the better part of two years, the pulp mill here and a companion paper mill in Gorham were idle, with nearly 900 people out of work.

But the mill is slowly coming back to life under its new owners.

“The last time we saw smoke was August 2001,” said Eddie Deblois, president of the mill workers union. “A lot has happened since those bleak days.”

The previous owner, American Tissue, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September 2001, blaming its troubles on energy cost increases, an inventory glut and the hazards of a strong dollar depressing foreign demand for its products.

Fraser Papers bought the mills last spring and immediately fired up several of the five paper machines at the Cascade mill in Gorham.

The Berlin mill expected to start cooking pulp on Thursday. “We’re in the process of getting things started up,” said mill spokesman Greg Cyr. He expected the mill to be fully on line some time next week.

The, which dominates downtown Berlin, had few problems in starting up, considering it had been shut down for about a year and half, the longest in its history.

Once the pulp mill is functioning, the fifth and last paper machine at the Cascade mill will be up and running.

“Right now, (the union) has about 475 people back to work and there are calls to bring back 50 or 60 next week,” Deblois said. “It’s very exciting.”

AP-ES-04-10-03 1226EDT

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