Sappi’s Cloquet mill resumes production in wake of flood damageWhile the staff and crew at Sappi’s Cloquet mill are still actively engaged in clean up and recovery efforts following last week’s flooding, most of the mill’s operations were up and running by Tuesday night.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
While the staff and crew at Sappi’s Cloquet mill are still actively engaged in clean up and recovery efforts following last week’s flooding, most of the mill’s operations were up and running by Tuesday night.
According to Mill Manager Rick Dwyer, the St. Louis River crested late Thursday. The water line that is still apparent on the outside of the mill’s main office building this week shows the water came up as high as three to four feet.
“By Friday, we knew we were out of the woods,” related Dwyer, “and by Saturday we started getting people in to help clean up. Due to the incredible efforts of all of our people, by Wednesday morning we had most of our manufacturing assets up and running, including the pulp mill, the recovery boiler and utilities, and the coating, calendaring and sheeting assets. All loading docks are fully operational and in fact, we have been shipping out of the mill since last Saturday. A lot of people worked very hard to make this happen, including building earthen dikes, reinforcing walls and carting out wheelbarrows of river debris and mud from the basement.”
Dwyer added, “Due to our company’s quick thinking, we were able to sandbag outside the shipping area, keeping out flood waters for the most part. There was minimal damage to our work in progress and finished goods inventory.”
He said all kinds of debris washed in with the river, all of which has already been cleaned out.
“The paper machines are on the second floor so they were fine, but all of their supply pumps are in the basement and that’s where the water came in. Luckily it only got to a foot and a half deep, and all of our pumps are just about a foot and a half off the floor. It’s amazing how close we came.”
Cleanup at the mill began Saturday morning.
“We wanted to wait until we knew the water was going down,” said Rick Dwyer. “Starting Saturday evening, every employee was on his or her regular shift. Every single employee came in and did everything we asked of them to get their plant back and running. We had people doing things they don’t normally do, working with people they don’t really know, and in areas they weren’t totally familiar with, but everyone was careful and they kept an eye on each other.”
Meanwhile, as Cloquet was working on its recovery efforts, Sappi customer support was hard at work to keep business moving forward.
“Our customer service and supply chain teams were in full gear,” said Jennifer Miller, executive vice president of Sappi’s coated business, “contacting customers with any delays, rescheduling deliveries and fulfilling orders from inventory. As a result of this teamwork, most of our customers were unaffected by the regional flood.”
Dwyer said one of the most astounding things out of the whole experience was that the mill went through these last seven days without a single recordable injury.
Dwyer said it’s likely the full restoration of all peripheral damage to the mill will take some time to complete.
“We’re talking about landscaping, cleaning out back offices, and other non-operational items,” he said. “There are other places for us to work as long as there’s a good Internet connection and a telephone. As long as we’re making pulp and paper, we can get by.”
He indicated insurance will cover much of the mill’s losses, adding that there is no record of the mill ever being flooded from the river in the past (a flooded basement in 1991 was caused by overflow from the city water line following a storm).
“It’s a sunny day, and it’s a great day in Cloquet,” Dwyer said Tuesday afternoon. “We’re going back to work.”