A total of 16 contractors and two Woodland Pulp employees were exposed to chlorine dioxide gas during a planned maintenance outage at the mill at about 10 a.m. on February 16. Calais Regional Hospital emergency staff treated 14 of the victims. All workers were stable as of 12:30 p.m., and 13 were in good condition and were discharged that afternoon. One patient was in fair condition and was observed for a period of time after that.
The hospital activated its emergency response plan to deal with mass chemical exposure. During its response, around noontime the hospital's emergency department began diverting non-emergency patients.
"Calais Regional Hospital staff quickly and efficiently put our emergency response plan into action," says Rod Boula, CEO at the hospital. "They were able to rapidly staff up to be able to treat the influx of patients received from this incident. CRH worked side by side with the area ambulance services and emergency response staff to assess and treat all patients. The community can be very proud of how this situation was handled and the excellent care provided to patients."
According to Woodland Pulp, the gas was released briefly because of a lack of ventilation of the equipment being worked on. A release from the mill states that indications suggest "exposure appears to be minimal." The situation was quickly corrected, allowing the planned maintenance activities to safely resume. Workers were transported by ambulance to the hospital "out of an abundance of caution," the release states.
Woodland Pulp notified the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and other agencies about the incident.