A massive explosion at the Androscoggin Mill in Jay about noon on Wednesday, April 15, ripped apart the plant owned by Pixelle Specialty Paper Solutions. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

JAY — Pixelle Specialty Paper Solutions will reduce its workforce by nearly 60 this coming week as a result of an April explosion at the Androscoggin Mill that put a halt to pulp manufacturing at the plant.

Further reductions are possible in the near future, company officials said.

Pixelle officials announced Thursday that 59 employees will be affected when the initial reduction goes into effect on Monday, July 13.

“The reduction,” Pixelle Mill Manager Jay Thiessen said in a news release, “is an unfortunate consequence of a circumstance no one expected, wanted or caused. Everyone affected has been a valued member of our team. We will provide those affected by the reduction support in the form of compensation, benefits and job placement assistance.”

On April 15, an explosion rocked the mill, the result of an issue in the plant’s digester, a large container used to cook the chips in order to reduce them into fibrous pulp for the paper-making process. A couple of people were treated for respiratory problems, officials said at the time, but otherwise there were no casualties or other major injuries after the explosion sent smoke and debris more than 100 feet into the air.

The mill has since found other sources for its pulp and has resumed papermaking, but the situation has caused Pixelle to reorganize its staff, according to the company statement.

The interruption also negatively impacted the independent loggers and truckers who supply wood for the pulp-manufacturing operation.

“We understand our wood suppliers need information about our long-term plan, but it will be at least the fourth quarter of 2020 before we determine that information ourselves,” said Thiessen. “The process of remediating the rupture site, determining the exact root cause of the rupture, and developing a long-term plan is a time-intensive process. We need to develop and execute it correctly to help ensure long-term success.”

It was not known how many mill employees will ultimately be affected as plant officials reorganize their work force.

“Subsequent reduction details will be determined after the mill completes its evaluation of its operating options and finalizes its long-term strategy,” according to the statement.

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