Secrecy surrounds IP explosion and future of Cantonment plant

In its official press release, International Paper said Monday that its Cantonment mill experienced significant structural damage to the largest pulp digester as well as the power house at its Pensacola pulp and paper mill. No one at the mill was injured.

Only four Escambia firefighters were allowed on the IP property Sunday night. A mixture of wood fiber, water and pulping liquor descended into the surrounding community covering roads, homes, and vehicles.

Sunday night IP officials said, “If you come in contact with the pulp material, it is advised that you immediately wash your hands with warm or cold water and vinegar. Avoid contact with your eyes and mouth. If your vehicle comes in contact with the pulp material or ash, you are encouraged to wash your vehicle.”

Yesterday on “Pensacola Speaks,” callers questioned the health implications of the “black liquor.” Material Safety Data sheet posted on warned that the substance maybe corrosive to metals and can cause severe skin burns and eye damage. Sources familiar with the Cantonment processes have told Inweekly that the “black liquor” isn’t harmful if washed with soap.

IP has advised anyone experiencing skin irritation or respiratory issues to see a doctor. IP has set up a hotline for questions: 850-968-4208. reports that IP has entered into a “Unified Command” with Escambia County EMA, Escambia County Public Safety, Florida Department of Health, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the EPA. The command worked Tuesday to clear roadways, assess impacted areas, provide direct outreach to more than 40 residents and implement a remediation plan.

Not all residents impacted have been contacted. Janet Morgan, a retired IP employee, lives on Woodbury Circle off Hwy 29 in Cantonment. She said that her neighborhood is one of the ones most effected by this wood fiber, water and black liquor explosion.

“I thank God that there were no injuries, but I have not seen or heard from any representative from International Paper as to what to expect concerning our homes, automobiles or our street,” said Ms. Morgan. “I can’t speak for everyone, but I am disable and can’t do manual labor nor an I afford to pay someone.”

In its official press release, IP reported the Cantonment plant is not operating. “We are assessing the extent of the damage to the mill, evaluating supply options and will be working closely with our customers to meet their needs,” said the release.

About 500 people work at plant and another 500 work for IP’s suppliers and vendors in the area. People question whether the plant will reopen or while IP relocate its remaining equipment to another facility.



12 thoughts on “Secrecy surrounds IP explosion and future of Cantonment plant

  1. Mr. Nelson,
    Thank you. I hope you are correct. Here are the toxins that were released and what to do if any living thing comes in contact with them.
    : H290 – May be corrosive to metals.
    H302+H312 – Harmful if swallowed or in contact with skin.
    H314 – Causes severe skin burns and eye damage.
    H317 – May cause an allergic skin reaction.
    H318 – Causes serious eye damage.
    H400 – Very toxic to aquatic life.
    H412 – Harmful to aquatic life with long lasting effects.
    Precautionary Statements (GHS-US) : P234 – Keep only in original container.
    P260 – Do not breathe vapors, mist, spray.
    P264 – Wash hands, forearms, and exposed areas thoroughly after handling.
    P270 – Do not eat, drink or smoke when using this product.
    P272 – Contaminated work clothing must not be allowed out of the workplace.
    P273 – Avoid release to the environment.

  2. Dr. Horning, I’m afraid you’re mistaken about the pulp manufacturing process and dioxins. It’s true that in the past trace amounts of dioxin were produced when brown wood pulp was treated with elemental chlorine (Cl2) to bleach it, but the chlorine was applied in the bleach plant, the next stage of the production process, not in the digester itself. Bleaching chemicals are not used in digesters. Since this was a digester rupture, there is no chance that the pulp residue and black liquor that sprayed out of the digester contained dioxins. As an aside, the IP mill discontinued using elemental chlorine years ago, substituting oxygen instead, which creates no dioxins.

  3. look at the environmental track record of the plant obscured by numerous consent decrees from DEP over the years and you will understand the reason for the lack of transparency and outright obfuscation regarding this “manufacturing process failure”.

  4. Jeeperman — I do know what I am talking about. And we are lucky to have Jack Brown as our county administrator – he too knows about the impact on our environment these chemicals have on all living things.

  5. It was not a boiler that blew, but a digester and the power house. That’s much worse. The digester is where they put the chlorine and other chemicals.
    Jeeperman — read up on the impact of toxins from pulp mills and the impact on the Fenhalloway River. The main ingredient of “bleaching” is dioxin — the same ingredient in AGENT ORANGE. This is called a fact.

  6. No one should trust what International Paper says about the toxicity. Like BP, the corporate bottom line is to minimize damage, especially monetary damages. The same with the fire at the Richmond, CA oil refinery. We need truly independent investigators and not corporate public relations.

  7. PH.D does not equal all knowing.
    Don’t be crying wolf when you do not know what your talking about.

  8. This event involves the rupture of a digester, expelling partially cooked wood chips and cooking liquor to the surrounding area. In the pulp manufacturing process the digester comes before the bleaching process, which means that there should be no resulting release of dioxins.

  9. This envirmental impact from the explosion is bigger than IP will every say. The ash includes dioxins — toxic substances that is linked to cancer in humans. It is basically the main ingredient in Agent Orange. The dioxins in sediment and in pulp are the result of the bleaching process in making paper products.
    The ash should be contained, not washed into our stormwater.
    The impact of this tragedy will impact our environment for years to come, especially on children and the elderly.

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