Jay Public Works Director John Johnson sits in his truck talking with Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere and Jay paper mill environmental engineer Chuck Kraske on Thursday morning on Riley Road. The three were discussing a cleanup plan for the partially-cooked pulp that rained down after the mill exploded Wednesday. Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal

JAY —  The air quality around the heavily damaged Androscoggin Mill is safe, Fire Rescue Chief Mike Booker said Thursday, as officials planned for cleaning up debris after the paper mill explosion Wednesday.

A digester that turns wood chips into pulp blew up, sending partially cooked pulp raining down around the Riley Road mill, according to Roxie Lassetter, human resources manager at the Pixelle Specialty Solutions plant.

There were no serious injuries.

“There is a nuisance smell (in the air) but that is not toxic to your health,” Booker said. That information was told to him and Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere by mill representatives, which concurred with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

LaFreniere, John Johnson, Jay public works director, and Chuck Kraske, an environmental engineer at Pixelle, met on Riley Road on Thursday morning to go over a cleanup plan.

Jay and Livermore Falls public works crews were sweeping the pulp debris in the roadway and planned to dispose of it at the mill’s landfill.

Retired Androscoggin Mill worker, Paul Moore holds a handful of uncooked pulp that was in his driveway nearly a mile away from the mill. He brought it to the side of Route 140 yesterday to show friends who gathered along the banks to talk and watch the scene and discovered it was all over the ground there as well. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The mill will have contractors clean up the section of Riley Road, near the mill, LaFreniere said.

If residents want to sweep the debris into a pile, they can contact Lassetter at 207-897-1307, and the mill will send someone to pick it up and dispose of it. Residents should wear gloves, and if dust is present, wear a face mask.

Tim Hardy and Deputy Director Amanda Simoneau, director and deputy director of Franklin County Emergency Management Agency, respectively, and area fire departments over the years have planned and trained for an emergency at the mill.

On Wednesday, Hardy and Simoneau went to the mill’s emergency operations center and worked under the incident command system that included Booker, Jay Police Chief Richard Caton IV and mill emergency team representatives. Simoneau assisted with recording and writing information. Hardy provided information to the Maine Emergency Management Agency via phone.

“We brought our communications trailer to the site in case it was needed,” Hardy said.

Two Franklin County dispatchers volunteered to set it up. Other dispatchers went to the Regional Communications Center in Farmington to assist dispatchers.

“For the magnitude of the incident, operationally, I think the whole thing went well,” Hardy said.

Stephen Gould, town manager of Livermore Falls, had worked at the mill in the 1970s and 1980s has many friends there. He also worked at the defunct Wausau Otis Specialty Paper mill in Jay and Livermore Falls.

“Many of my former co-workers from the Wausau mill now work there also,” Gould said.  “It was devastating thinking that one or more of these people could be injured, or lost their lives in this explosion. It brought back memories of the explosion in Farmington from last year and the devastating injuries and loss of life in that incident.”

Once it became known there were few injuries, he became concerned for the overall viability of the mill, he said.

“It’s obvious they cannot run without the digesters,” Gould said.

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