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PCA idling Wallula, Washington mill

WALLULA, WA (From news reports) -- Packaging Corporation of America has notified its Wallula mill employees the mill will be idled and won't resume operations until later this year.

Packaging Corporation, based in Lake Forest, Ill., confirmed the layoffs in a statement. It attributed the decision to idle the plant to "economic conditions."

"We expect to resume operations at the mill later this year," said the statement.

Corrugated products facilities in Richland and Wallula are not affected and will remain open.

It appears the decision will affect about 300 of the 450 Packaging Corp. employees at Wallula, many of whom commute from the Tri-Cities. According to the Washington Department of Ecology, Packaging Corp. employs about 300 people at the pulp and paper mill and 155 at the unaffected container plant.

The pulp and paper mill makes about 1,800 tons of unbleached paper and corrugate medium each day.

The container plant makes about 5 million square feet of boxes each day. The mill treats its own wastewater before discharging it to the Columbia River under a permit with the state agency. Karl Dye, president of the Tri-City Development Council, said while the news is unfortunate, workers are in demand across skill and education levels in the Tri-Cities. The local economy should be able to reemploy them, he said.

With 450 workers in total, Packaging Corporation is Walla Walla County's ninth largest employer, according to economic data compiled by the Port of Walla Walla. There was no apparent warning under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires companies with 100 or more employees affected by layoffs to give advance notice. WARN notices are required for temporary shutdowns that last six months or longer.

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