None Injured In Massive Explosion At Androscoggin Mill In Jay

Multiple local and state emergency agencies were to an explosion at the Androscoggin Mill in Jay Wednesday afternoon that sent a plume of smoke into the air and scattered pulp debris miles away.

The Androscoggin Mill in Jay.
Credit Courtesy of Verso Corp.

Maine Department of Public Safety Spokesman Steve McCausland says the explosion occurred around midday. McCausland says all employees and contractors at the mill have been accounted for, and there are no injuries.

The mill is owned by Pennsylvania-based Pixelle Specialty Solutions. Spokesperson Roxie Lassetter says no workers were in the area of the blast when it occurred shortly after noon.

"The headline today is everyone is accounted for, and there are no injuries on that mill site," she says.

Maine Forest Service helicopters at Hannaford supermarket in Jay on Wednesday.
Credit Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Lassetter says there are around 170 workers on site at the mill during any given shift.

The state fire marshal's office says the blast originated in a digester tank that reduces wood chips to fiber, and that an investigation into the exact cause will begin Thursday.

The explosion took place around noon, with images of the scene circulating quickly on social media. A truck driver who was waiting in line at the mill captured video of the explosion. It contains strong language, but can be seen here.

Stephanie Turner, who works at an accounting and tax agency on Main Street in Jay, says she learned of the explosion almost immediately when it happened around noon.

“I actually felt at the office a kind of weird vibration and I looked out the window and saw the big huge cloud of black smoke,” she says.

Brown debris from the explosion at the Androscoggin Mill in Jay peppered the area, as seen here at the Jay Police Department.
Credit Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Turner immediately reached out to her husband who works at the mill and found out he was fine.

Town manager Shiloh LaFreniere has asked the public to stay away from the area to allow emergency responders to work.

Gov. Janet Mills says she joins others in breathing a sigh of relief knowing that no one was injured in the massive explosion. Speaking at a press briefing late Wednesday afternoon, Mills offered her support to mill workers and praised first responders for rushing to the scene.

Over the past week, in addition to dealing with the pandemic, Mainers have had to endure a snowstorm, a windstorm, widespread power outages, flood warnings and now an explosion. But Mills says Mainers are resilient.

“There’s a common saying that ‘God will not give you more than you can carry.’ And without question the burden for us now is heavy. But Maine people can carry it and we will carry it. I just want to say, if ever there was a day when we should believe in miracles, today is it,” she says.

Mills says it’s unclear what the future holds for the mill, which was purchased by Pixelle in February. In a written statement, the company said it is still in the preliminary stages of assessing the situation and to restore order at the site.

Updated April 15, 2020 at 5:39 p.m. ET.