Vancouver, BC, Canada (From news reports) -- A violent operational incident at Canfor Pulp's Intencontinental Pulp Mill on Dec. 13 caused damage to the dissolving tanks used in the pulp manufacturing process.
Nobody was injured but the mill was shut down as a result.
"To be clear, there was no explosion at Intercon mill and we strongly caution against any claim to that effect," said Michelle Ward, Canfor Pulp's vice president corporate communications. "An explosion would be a very serious and visible incident. On December 13th there was a smelt water reaction in the dissolving tanks at the Intercon mill where hot smelt interacted with cold water causing noisy jolting within the tanks. The event, which lasted two to three minutes, caused damage to the tanks."
"Most importantly, no one was hurt," added Ward. "The team at Intercon followed our well-rehearsed emergency response plan, evacuated the area to ensure people safety and successfully shut down the mill in an orderly fashion. WorkSafe BC was immediately notified and quickly attended the scene to conduct their investigation. They cleared the site for repairs, which have now been completed."
The adverse reaction in the tanks happened six days before Intercon went into a planned two-week curtailment that had been scheduled to begin on Dec. 19.
"It was an operational mix-up," said Chuck LeBlanc, Local 9 president of the Private and Public Workers of Canada, the union that represents workers at the mill. "It kind of precipitated the curtailment. The mill went down because of the issue and then they decided, since it was down, to keep it down for the four weeks over Christmas to save on chip supply."
While there were no injuries, LeBlanc knows some employees were traumatized by the incident.
"It could have been bad," said LeBlanc. "Luckily the tank didn't rupture or any of that stuff, it just blew a bunch of pipe and cladding and skirting off."
"Any time an industrial accident happens there's good potential for someone to need a little bit of counselling for the PTSD kind of stuff. It wouldn't surprise me if someone talked to our employee family assistance people."
The investigation into the incident is ongoing, according to WorkSafe BC spokesperson Alexandra Skinner.
"WorkSafeBC is aware of a non-injury incident that took place at the Canfor Mill in Prince George on December 13, 2022," said Skinner. "WorkSafeBC is conducting an investigation of the incident with the purpose of determining the cause and contributing factors, so that similar incidents can be prevented in the future."