“Several Months” Needed to Repair Sartell Mill; Future Unclear

A preliminary assessment of the paper mill, which was damaged by an explosion and fire last month, revealed that it would take several months to repair; but the company that runs it will explore all of its options after the full damage, repairs, and cost are known.

The paper mill in Sartell—which was damaged by a May 28 explosion and fire that killed one factory worker—would take “several months” to repair, Memphis-based Verso Paper Corporation, which operates the mill, said Monday.

But the future of the mill, which has been closed since the fire, is unclear.

“Once we have a full picture of the extent of the damage, repairs, and cost, then we’ll make a decision on what to do with the mill,” Bill Cohen, manager of communications and public affairs for Verso, told Twin Cities Business. “But absolutely no predeterminations have been made as far as what’s on the table.”

He wouldn’t say whether it’s possible that the mill could close altogether.

The estimated period of time for repairs is based on a preliminary assessment of the mill’s damage. Cohen said that the company doesn’t have a more precise timetable for repairs, but Verso’s full assessment of the damage could also take “a few months.”

The explosion and subsequent fire, which killed factory worker Jon Maus and injured four others, mainly damaged the mill’s paper warehouse and some electrical systems. A visual inspection of the mill’s paper machine showed that the exterior wasn’t damaged, but it hasn’t been tested since the fire.

The fire destroyed more than 5,000 tons of finished paper in the warehouse, according to Verso.

Cohen said in order to serve customers that relied on the Sartell mill, Verso will draw from its other mills or warehouses. The company has three other mills, which are located in Maine and Michigan.

The Sartell mill employs 259 and is the second-largest employer in the city of about 16,000. Approximately 50 people were working at the plant when the explosion occurred.