OUR VIEW: Book closes on Temple-Inland

Published 12:12 am Friday, February 15, 2013

A guilty plea by Temple-Inland regarding its role in a massive fish kill in 2011 was an unfortunate epilogue in the company’s decade-run in Bogalusa.

T-I recently pled guilty to negligently causing the discharge of so-called black liquor into the Pearl River and to negligently taking of fish from the Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge.

In August 2011, equipment failures caused the discharge of a pollutant into the Pearl, causing depletion of the oxygen level in the river, leading to a fish kill that was estimated to be at nearly 500,000.

The court proceeding was a dismal post mortem to what was otherwise a seemingly flawless tenure for T-I in Bogalusa. Temple-Inland originally bought the facility in 2002 from Gaylord Container Corp., and the Austin, Texas-based company turned out to be an excellent community neighbor.

Rumors began floating about a possible T-I takeover in the summer of 2011, shortly before the fish kill. After months of speculation, in February 2012 corporate giant International Paper became the mill’s fifth owner since the Goodyear family founded the Great Southern Lumber Company in 1906.

Early returns indicate that IP will also be active in the community, one indication being that United Way donations through the mill are higher than they have been in several years.

Temple-Inland’s exit was less than glorious but at least that unfortunate chapter of the mill’s history has closed. A brighter future hopefully lies ahead, one sign of encouragement being IP’s investment of millions of dollars of much-needed improvements and upgrades at the aging facility.

One chapter closes, another dawns. But the one constant is the paper mill continues to be the chauffeur of Bogalusa’s economy, and with IP’s commitment it appears there is reason for optimism for the future.