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1 trapped during IP mill explosion, according to report

CANTONMENT, Florida (From the Pensacola News Journal) -- A control tower operator was trapped on site for more than an hour following an explosion at the Cantonment International Paper mill, according to a new series of documents from first responders.

The initial incident report from Escambia County Fire Rescue and 911 call logs confirm that one person was trapped at a weigh tower and surrounded by about three feet of the black liquor substance that eventually covered an entire neighborhood following the Jan. 22 blast. The explosion was reported at 7:40 p.m., and that operator was reported as removed from the site without harm at 8:45 p.m.

Members of the 'unified command' team that has been controlling cleanup efforts have previously said that while they know black liquor is one of the substances that makes up the sticky, black debris that was scattered over the area, they do not know for certain what other chemicals may have been in the air directly following the explosion.

A doctor from West Florida Hospital called 911 officials four hours after the explosion reporting that several patients from the Cantonment area had arrived at the hospital, some with abdominal pain, and asked for an IP representative to call to answer questions about what the chemicals could be doing to the patients.

The Department of Health provided a copy of the black liquor Material Safety Data Sheet to all area hospitals to help them deal with incoming patients who were impacted by the debris following the explosion, and a county representative asked his team to research black liquor as he himself had an irritated throat after being on site responding to the incident.

More than three weeks have passed since the mill explosion, which caused the plant to remain out of operation and left hundreds of responders cleaning and remediating the adjacent Woodbury neighborhood. Many residents in that area expressed their concern for their health, properties and well-being at a recent town hall meeting about the explosion, but incident command team representatives continue to say there is no severe health risk.

The Gilbert Firm, a law office, issued a press release last week saying that a number of Cantonment residents were preparing to take legal action over their physical injuries and concerns with chemically polluted air following the explosion.

IP representative Janice Holmes said Monday she would not disclose how many area residents had taken a settlement for damage done to their homes that remediation teams still could not fix. She also said she could not disclose dollar figures on how much damage was done - to either the mill itself or the surrounding area - as a result of the explosion.

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Join Jim Thompson on the 2nd Annual Papermakers Mission Trip to Guatemala, 22 - 29 July 17. Build houses, talk about the pulp and paper industry. For more information, email jthompson@taii.com with "Guatemala" in the subject line.


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