An explosion at the Packaging Corporation of America paper mill DeRidder, LA on Wednesday morning killed three workers and injured seven others, numerous local media organizations reported.
“At approximately 11:10 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 8th, there was an explosion at our DeRidder, LA paper mill. The incident involved annual repair work being performed on piping in the pulp mill area and resulted in three contractor fatalities. The cause of the incident is under investigation,” the company said in a statement issued Thursday.
Two tanks at the plant exploded, according to a statement made by Beauregard Parish Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Joe Toler in an Associated Press article. The company operates two containerboard machines at the site, which has an annual production capacity of 874,000 tns., the company’s website states.
Active welding work was going on near the area where the tank explosion occurred, a spokesperson for Louisiana State Police Troop D, Sgt. James Anderson, told local NBC television news affiliate KPLC. Sgt. Anderson said in the station’s report that the tank held “foul condensate, which is a byproduct of the cooking process.” It is unclear at present if other chemicals were involved in the blast, he said.
“At the time of the incident, the D1 machine was down for its annual outage and the D3 machine was running and continues to operate. The current assessment indicates that the annual outage work is expected to be delayed for up to one week and the mill will then resume full operation.”
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Louisiana State Police are investigating the incident, local media reports said.