Spill prompted Presstek’s Mass. shutdown

Presstek chose to shut down its sagging analog plate business rather than meet environmental standards needed to reopen it, resulting in a loss of 29 jobs at a facility in Massachusetts and a cost of $7.4 million to the Hudson company.

The impetus was a chemical spill at the end of October at the South Hadley, Mass., facility that forced nearby school closures and evacuation of surrounding homes.

The plant restarted digital operations within a week, but the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection would not let the company use the chemical tank needed for its analog plates operation until Presstek completed investigations into the cause of the spill and certified that the tank was “structurally sound,” Eva Torr, a DEP spokesperson, told NHBR Daily.

Torr was awaiting more information and the certification when Presstek announced that it would be discontinuing its analog operations.

Presstek acquired the South Hadley facility two years ago, primarily for its digital operations, Chief Financial Officer Moosa E. Moosa told NHBR Daily. The company had been moving toward eliminating analog operations anyway, primarily because of greater demand for digital, he said.

The analog operation had revenue of $3.3 million out of a total of $64 million in revenues in the last reported quarter, which ended Sept. 30, and $9.9 million out of $210 million over the last three reported quarters. Thanks to the interruption caused by the spill, the analog operation would have produced less than $1 million in the fourth quarter, said. Moosa.

In addition, it is not clear how much cleanup will cost the company. The company had to clean up 1,500 gallons of sulfuric acid, as well as empty tanks of some 3,000 to 5,000 gallons of other hazardous chemicals, Torr said. In addition, the DEP is asking the company to test the soil and groundwater to see if any contamination occurred.

Moosa said there wasn’t any because there were safeguards in place that worked.

Still, said Torr, the state agency wanted to make sure that it “knew exactly what happened and ensure that it won’t happen again.”

Discontinuing the operation, she agreed, was one way to make sure that it didn’t happen again. – BOB SANDERS

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