Tacoma’s Paper Mill to Cease Operations in September

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Image Credit: King 5 News

Tacoma, Washington – In a recent announcement on Tuesday, the corporate owner of the Tacoma paper mill, WestRock Company, revealed its decision to shut down the facility by the end of September. The decision was primarily driven by the mill’s high operating costs and significant capital investment needs, which led to the difficult conclusion to cease operations. Currently, the mill employs approximately 400 individuals.

Effective September 30, the mill will completely shut down all its operations. In response to the closure, David Sewell, the CEO of WestRock Company, stated that the company would extend assistance to Tacoma’s employees in exploring potential roles at other WestRock facilities.

It is worth noting that the mill’s corporate owner has encountered regulatory challenges in recent years. Washington agencies have levied fines against the company twice. One instance was related to an air quality violation, while the other was due to the company’s alleged negligence in safeguarding workers during the COVID-19 pandemic at a Longview facility.

Regarding the air quality violation, the company recently reached a settlement with the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) after being cited for not adequately reducing hazardous air pollutants during a performance test conducted on April 17. However, a subsequent test on May 11 demonstrated that the company had returned to compliance. The initial fine of $52,500 was eventually settled for $32,000.

Moreover, in 2021, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) imposed a substantial fine of nearly $140,000 on WestRock Company following the death of an employee from COVID-19 at the Longview facility. Additionally, 14 other workers allegedly contracted the virus while on the job. State inspectors issued a citation to the paper mill, classifying the violation as “Willful Serious,” indicating that the company knowingly jeopardized the safety of its employees. The company has since appealed the citation.

In light of these developments, the decision to close the Tacoma paper mill underscores the challenges faced by the company, both financially and in terms of compliance with regulations. WestRock Company’s commitment to assisting affected employees in exploring alternative opportunities reflects its efforts to support its workforce during this challenging period.

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