Nanaimo’s Harmac mill works to fill doubled pulp order for medical masks and gowns

Mill’s president says extra cleaning in place and workers are social distancing

Production is heating up at Harmac Pacific to produce a special paper pulp used in the manufacture of disposable surgical masks, gowns and other medical products.

Those products, worn to help prevent the spread of disease, are in short supply due to the COVID-19 crisis and the U.S. customer that produces them has doubled its order for the K10S pulp.

“It’s a customer out of the States and we’ve been supplying them for years, but in light of what’s going on in the lack of medical supplies, they’ve doubled their order with us in the last week, so we’re doing everything we can to meet that demand,” said Levi Sampson, Harmac president.

Sampson said the Harmac mill is the world’s only producer of the particular grade of paper pulp used in the manufacture of surgical masks and gowns and that the mill has been producing it since before he came to work there in 2008.

“K10S is the pulp that we’re producing for these medical supplies. We’re the only one that produces it,” he said. “Different pulp mills run different grades of pulp – almost kind of like recipes.”

K10S pulp is made from western red cedar that produces a soft fibre that makes it suitable for the final products made from it.

READ MORE: 3M pushes back on Trump administration call to stop sending N95 masks to Canada

“It’s been tweaked over the years to come up with the right formula that allows it to go into the medical supplies,” Sampson said.

Ramping up production means Harmac Pacific’s 320 full-time employees will continue turning out to do their jobs while people in other industries are off work because of efforts to control coronavirus spread. The mill is located on more than 100 hectares and is running a program of extra cleaning and disinfecting of washrooms, work stations and other facilities, and the workers on each shift should be able socially distance and maintain workplace conditions that will help them prevent spreading the virus.

The mill’s production output for K10S varies depending on the customers’ needs. Sampson wouldn’t get into specific numbers, but did say he has never seen a doubling of an order.

“That’s why we’ve decided to continue to run. We know our product’s going into surgical gowns and masks and drapes and caps and those kind of things, so for our employees, they’re really feeling like, even though we’re not frontline workers – like the doctors and nurses and paramedics that have everyone’s utmost respect right now – we’re making a product that’s finding its way to those front lines,” Sampson said. “So, that’s why we’re doing it.”

READ ALSO: Harmac mill marks 10 years of employee ownership

The mill currently has an adequate supply of western red cedar chips to meet its production needs.

“Finding chips and affordable fibre is always a concern for us,” Sampson said. “We’re constantly looking into finding supply, right now, especially. The forest industry had been hit pretty hard even before this COVID crisis came about, with [Western Forest Products] and their strike. That’s always something that we’re looking at, but as of right now, we’re getting enough to run the mill and to be able to produce this product.”

Sampson said the mill will do whatever it can to produce as much of the K10S pulp as it can to fill future orders for more if needed.

He also noted the products made from the pulp will also make it back to Canada to resupply medical staff here.

“People should be proud on Vancouver Island that there is a company that’s producing a product that’s going directly into medical gowns and masks at this time,” he said. “We all hear the stories of doctors and nurses running out of the product or they already have, so if we can continue to produce this it should be a sense of pride for people. I know it is for our workforce.”

READ ALSO: Stay informed about COVID-19



photos@nanaimobulletin.com
Like us on
Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Three graduating SD69 students earn prestigious foundation awards

Recipents plan to continue their impactful work in the service of others

PQBeat Podcast: Ed Mayne talks COVID-19, potential pool for Parksville

Mayor returns to ‘PQB News’ studios to detail summer plans

B.C. Supreme Court dismisses claim against Island Corridor Foundation

Snaw-Naw-As (Nanoose) First Nation was seeking return of reserve land as railway sits unused

QUIZ: A celebration of dogs

These are the dog days of summer. How much do you know about dogs?

First glimpse of Canada’s true COVID-19 infection rate expected mid-July

At least 105,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus was identified

Nanaimo RCMP ask for help finding missing 19-year-old

Haley Murphy has not been seen since Tuesday, June 30, say police

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

PHOTOS: B.C.’s top doc picks up personalized Fluevog shoes, tours mural exhibition

Murals of Gratitude exhibit includes at least one portrait of Henry alongside paintings of health-care workers

‘Mind boggling’: B.C. man $1 million richer after winning Lotto 6/49 a second time

David O’Brien hopes to use his winnings to travel and of course keep playing the lottery

Annual music event in Comox Valley celebrates online instead

Vancouver Island MusicFest holds virtual celebration set for July 10

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

Most Read