Avondale Mills chlorine damage shown at news conference

By: Lynnsey Gardner
By: Lynnsey Gardner

July 18, 2006

The end is near for Avondale Mills. The plant will end all operations a week from today.

After investing $140 million and 18 months into the cleanup, Avondale Mills explained at a news conference earlier today why they could never recover.

Stephen Felker's family began operating Avondale Mills over five generations ago. The company weathered the Civil War, two world wars, and the Great Depression. But the chlorine spill last year proved to be the end.

"I've discussed it with my family," Felker said today. "We really feel like we've had a death in the family, like my grandfather died. It's hard to put into words what it feels like."

Felker opened the company's Information Services building for the first time today. The building was the central communications backbone of the company. It was also located at the site of the crash of two Norfolk Southern trains that killed nine people.

Inside, metal was corroded beyond repair.

"The machinery equipment effected by chlorine affects the quality of our product and the quality of our workplace," Felker said. "And it's just unfortunate that Avondale has been destroyed from the carelessness and derailment that lead to the chlorine leak."

A family's legacy is destroyed over an accident Felker says could have been avoided.

"We are still in active litigation against Norfolk Southern. We definitely feel that it was their carelessness and blasé attitude that led to these unfortunate circumstances."

The company will shut its doors forever next Tuesday. Over 1000 jobs in Graniteville will be lost.

Despite the job loss, all Avondale Mills employees will be declared one hundred percent vested in their pension plans.

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