There was a large explosion Wednesday afternoon at the Androscoggin Mill in Jay, Maine.
Gov. Janet Mills announced at a press conference that all employees and contractors had been accounted for. No serious injuries were suffered.
"We are all, in the state of Maine, breathing a deep sigh of relief," Mills said.
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Mills said that as the state deals with the coronavirus pandemic, Mainers should be grateful that the explosion was not a major additional tragedy.
"If ever there is a day that we should believe in miracles, today is it," Mills said.
The Franklin County Sheriff's Department told News Center Maine that crews are responding and entrances to the mill on Crash Road and Riley Road are closed.
A manager at a Hannaford about two miles from the mill said he felt the explosion and saw a big cloud of smoke. The explosion was first reported around 1 p.m.
According to the Portland Press Herald, the mill, once owned by Ohio-based Verso Corp., was sold to Pixelle Specialty Solutions LLC, a paper manufacturer based in Pennsylvania. Roughly 500 people work there.
Alan Ulman, spokesman for Pixelle Specialty Solutions, confirmed the explosion but said he had few details.
“We are obviously researching it,” he said. “We promptly implemented emergency response procedures. There are multiple emergency personnel at the scene. Obviously our first concern is to verify that the employees are accounted for, and we have no definitive information yet. Our second priority is to determine any environmental impact to the surrounding area and again, I have no definitive information yet.”
State Sen. Russell Black, who is from the Jay area, said early reports were that the explosion was in or near a "digester" at the mill. Digesters are where chemicals get mixed with wood to break down the fibers into pulp. Some very strong chemicals are used in that process.
"I urge Maine people to stay far away from the scene, to stay safe and to allow first responders to work as quickly as they can," Mills said earlier in a statement. "I ask the people of Maine to join me in praying for the safety and wellbeing of all those in and around this historic mill. In this already difficult moment, let us summon the strength and resilience which has defined us as Maine people throughout our history and which has sustained us and carried us through our most challenging times."
State Rep. Tina Riley, who represents Jay and is a former mill electrician, said in a statement that she is "devastated" by the news of the explosion at the Androscoggin Mill.
"Right now my mind is on my friends and neighbors who either work at the mill or have family there," Riley said. "I am ready to do whatever is needed to support them and our entire community."