RUMFORD — A lightning strike at the ND Paper mill Friday afternoon caused a power outage that led to a chlorine gas leak, Fire Chief Chris Reed said.

There were no injuries and the mill was back in full operation by early evening, he said.

“I believe they took a direct strike,” he said, pinpointing the time at 3:42 p.m., adding that the rest of the town never lost power.

A hazmat team and firefighters responded and the mill was evacuated immediately.

Reed said due to the power outage, chlorine gas built up in a room and was released into the air by an exhaust fan when the power came back on.

It took two hours to vent the gas into the atmosphere, he said.


“We were lucky the wind was relatively calm as the cloud (of gas) went straight up,” he said.

Some people in the mill didn’t realize that they had a problem until the fan kicked on, Reed said.

“They’re going through each piece of the mill now with a monitor/meter to make sure there wasn’t a hidden pocket of gas anywhere and to check to make sure any circuit didn’t get melted or other issues,” he said shortly after 6 p.m.

ND Paper’s hazmat team, Rumford and Mexico fire departments, Rumford police and Med-Care Ambulance responded to the scene.

“We worked well together,” Reed said. “They train and have a plan that was put in place for this situation.”

ND Paper, with mills in three states, including two in Maine, is a manufacturer of various types of high-quality and sustainable pulp, packaging and paper products.

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