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August 30, 2014

Report: Repairs were done just prior to Verso paper mill explosion

In the hours before an explosion and fire in May at the Verso Paper plant that killed one employee and injured four others in Sartell, the plant had been shut down to repair a leaking water pipe, the St. Cloud Times reports. It was just being brought back online when the explosion happened, the newspaper reports.

The shutdown caused the plant to switch its source of cooling water for compressors that were later cited by employees as the spot where they saw smoke and flames just before the explosion, the newspaper says. That information was contained in statements that nine employees gave to police officers, and the statements were contained in police reports provided Tuesday to the Times by Sartell officials in response to a data request.

It’s unclear when or even if the plant might reopen.

Gov. Mark Dayton told Verso Paper this week that the explosion and fire qualifies the company for state assistance, MPR reports. But a spokesman says Verso is still weighing what the cost of rebuilding the plant might be and whether it’s worth it.