USG ‘saved’ by new flood gatesUSG’s Cloquet plant made a near-miraculous turnaround this week after the St. Louis River flood waters were virtually churning at its doorstep last week.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
USG’s Cloquet plant made a near-miraculous turnaround this week after the St. Louis River flood waters were virtually churning at its doorstep last week.
The mill was closed down last Wednesday and staff members were told to go home as the flood waters began rising outside the plant.
Mill Manager Bill Schmitt said the company’s game plan was to have production at the plant up and running again by midday or early evening Wednesday, with shipping and loading already under way on Monday.
“We are doing surprisingly well,” said Schmitt. “It was our new flood gates that saved us.”
Schmitt said the company’s insurance carrier had been working with the company over the past couple of years, urging them to consider a “top notch” flood containment plan that would involve the installation of flood gates at the entrances and ramps of the mill’s vulnerable lower levels.
USG spent half a million dollars over the past six months on that flood prevention plan, and last week it all paid off.
“We had consulted with the engineer about the area’s 500-year flood plain – and then added another foot,” said Schmitt. “Last week, when all was said and done, the water was about eight inches from the top of the gates.”
Schmitt said the mill’s basement level is where a lot of the electrical equipment, motors and pumps are housed, and if that level would have flooded, it would have involved considerably more time to get the mill up and running and would have been far more expensive to remediate.
The company is painfully familiar with that scenario – the basement of USG’s Cloquet plant flooded in the 1950s and again in the 1970s.
Last week’s sudden flood waters did manage to invade other parts of the mill, however, with some areas under as much as a foot of water.
“Our losses were nothing major, however,” said Schmitt. “We lost some finished product and raw materials, and some of the motors got wet and had to be rebuilt.”
All salaried, maintenance and engineering staff reported to the mill on Monday, according to Schmidt, and production employees were contacted through the mill’s internal notification system to report for their regular shifts on Wednesday.
Schmidt said though the mill’s losses were not insignificant, “in the grand scheme of things, it certainly could have been a whole lot worse.”