Some current and former employees at Temple-Inland's paper mill in Bogalusa, Louisiana, shuttered following effluent spill, say management fails to spend money on maintenance

LOS ANGELES , August 30, 2011 () – Employees at Temple-Inland’s paper mill in Bogalusa, Louisiana, say working conditions are deteriorating, citing lack of maintenance, the St. Tammany News reported Aug. 28.

The mill has been closed since Aug. 13, following an authorized discharge that led to a fish kill in the Pearl River. Following the closure, the company issued a statement saying it believed an excess of wastewater discharge may have depleted the oxygen level in part of the river. On Aug. 29, the state’s Department of Environmental Quality approved Temple-Inland’s request to restart operations.

Accounts from workers suggest that the plant’s 50-acre treatment pond—it is the larger of two such ponds at the mill--contains a large quantity of solid debris, allegedly reducing the amount of effluent treatment time from a minimal 21 days to one before it flows into the river, the St. Tammany News reported.

A former employee, who served for many years at the mill, but preferred not to be named, said he had seen a dramatic decline in safety standards in the past few years.

A number of former and present employees interviewed but not identified by the newspaper told similar stories, saying conditions had deteriorated when executives in Austin brought in new managers from outside the area. They assert that, because mill officials do not live in the community, they are not concerned about the mill.

One employee, who preferred to remain anonymous, said management is focusing on "the dollar bill" rather than expenditures on maintenance and employee safety.

One worker alleged that mill managers stocked no spare parts, and that an elevator in one of the towers remained out of order for six months. A former employee said the mill had once been an enjoyable place to work, but employees were now frustrated and biding their time until retirement, the St. Tammany News reported.

Management at the mill is continuing to pay employees during the shutdown, according to mill officials.

The primary source of this article is the St. Tammany News, Slidell, Louisiana, on Aug. 28, 2011.

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