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International Paper officials mum on explosion

CANTONMENT, Florida (From the Pensacola News Journal) -- International Paper officials refuse to disclose the reason the Cantonment mill was closed for 24 hours prior to an explosion that spewed black liquor throughout the north end of the county.

Both Chris Russell, who is on site representing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Paul Nony, a toxicologist contracted by IP to assess the site, confirmed the plant had not been in production for at least 24 hours prior to Sunday's incident, but IP representatives have not confirmed why, or if that reason was related to the explosion.

IP information officer Janice Holmes had not responded to multiple requests from the Pensacola News Journal to confirm that the mill was not in production at the time of the blast, and to specify whether not having the plant in operation was routine.

"During the course of mill operations, some processes within the mill are stopped and restarted," Holmes said in an email Wednesday night. "However, the operating status of any individual process does not necessarily impact the overall operating status of the mill."

The explosion occurred Jan. 22 around 7:40 p.m., when a manufacturing process failure caused a mixture of wood fibers and pulp liquor to be released across an area directly southeast of the plant's Muscogee Road location.

The State Fire Marshal team, who was on site in the days immediately following the explosion, still had not finalized a report as of late Tuesday to determine exactly what happened to cause an incident so large that the plant has been closed more than a week.

Holmes said Tuesday the mill would open "soon," but would not give a specific timetable when asked, nor would she say what part of the mill -- or all of it -- would open.

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