Operations at Weyerhaeuser’s downtown Kingsport paper mill were expected to resume around noon today after a sewer leak forced the plant to halt all operations Thursday night.
Plant Manager Charlie Floyd said Friday morning a “pluggage” in the mill’s sewer system was the culprit.
“We located the pluggage and were able to free it up at a little after 8 o’clock this morning. So we’re flushing everything out and we’ll be back to normal operations probably by noon today,” Floyd said.
KINGSPORT - Operations were idled Thursday evening at Weyerhaeuser, the paper mill in downtown Kingsport, after the plant's main process sewer stopped up and sent wastewater pouring onto city streets and into Reedy Creek.
State environmental officials had been notified and were en route to the scene about 10:30 p.m., said Tom Segelhorst, human resources health and safety manager at Weyerhaeuser.
East Center Street was closed from its intersection with Lynn Garden Drive to its intersection with Clinchfield and Main streets due to the overflow.
The Kingsport Fire Department, Kingsport Police Department and the Sullivan County Emergency Management Agency were among responders to the scene.
KFD and EMA officials directing media questions to Segelhorst.
Segelhorst said the cause of the sewer stop-up was unknown, and he knew of no precedent at the plant for the situation at hand.
Therefore, Segelhorst said he couldn't place any estimate on how long production would be down at the paper mill or how long it would take to fix or clean up the problem.
Weyerhaeuser employees had been joined by two contractors in the effort to get things back to normal, Segelhorst said.
He said the stop-up and overflow began at 8:10 p.m.
The plant employs about 330 people, with a shift of 75 on duty at the time of the overflow, Segelhorst said. No employees would lose any time due to the shutdown of operations, he said.
No evacuations were necessary, Segelhorst said.
Asked if the spillage contained hazardous materials, Segelhorst said the liquid, early on, had a high pH content - which he described as "caustic."
Asked if it would kill fish, Segelhorst said he didn't know.
Just downstream from the plant, Reedy Creek empties into the South Fork of the Holston River.
Asked if an alert had been sent downriver, Segelhorst said BAE Systems, which produces explosives for the Army at Holston Army Ammunition Plant just over the line in Hawkins County, had been notified.