Amanda Pacholczak: A Love Letter to the Mill: 2023 FPAC Green Dream Internship Program

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September 11, 2023

I like trees, but I don’t like getting sappy, so I’ll keep this short.

Thunder Bay Pulp and Paper Mill

I’m going to miss the mill.  

Great Lakes Paper Mill in 1948

I couldn’t list all the highlights of my summer in pulp and paper if I tried, but I’m going to try anyway.  

Understanding process layouts enough to use “east side” and “north wall” in everyday conversations brought me an absurd amount of joy. My “Thunder Bay Mill Acronyms and Vernacular” document has steadily grown into a six-page wealth of new vocabulary. DCS! MCC (both meanings)!  FSW&T! RCPE! I’ll spare you the rest.  

The Green Dream Internship was the perfect excuse to further explore and capture historical relics, beautiful traits, and silly quirks of the facility.  

  • the “be safe” smiley faces spray-painted on the wall,  
  • the eerie old control room looking out into the huge space housing paper machines 3 and 4,
  • the “HEAR HERE” signs on the old rotary telephones,  
  • animal friends! - little goslings waddling about and the remnants of their eggs, a groundhog-looking creature scurrying about, and even the protective seagulls viscously dive-bombing workers (reading “Seagull - 1, Bill – 0" in a near miss report made my day),
  • sunny summer mornings that make the Kaministiquia River sparkle,
  • the urban forest site north of the plant, home to a delightful variety of trees and the perfect place for an after-work walk, and
  • the dumper platforms, which lift transport trucks to astonishing 63-degree angles.
One of the smiley faces that serve as one of the many daily reminders to work safely

Mill-specific knowledge was just the beginning, though; as my dad would tell you, the real value of working at Thunder Bay Pulp and Paper was the common sense I gained.  

Did I use software older than I am? Yes. Did it serve its purpose? Absolutely. Simplicity breeds innovation.

The old control room for paper machines

I am sheepishly disappointed that I didn’t get to use my all-neutralizing washing spray? Maybe just a little. But do I know a lot more about safety? Yes, and a confident one this time.  

Can I now picture 40 ft or 20 000 LPM without asking “how quickly would that flow fill a swimming pool?” You betcha!

Have I realized that as a new employee, I can’t look everything up in a textbook anymore, that maximal learning requires jumping on every opportunity to ask questions, and that needing a LOT of help and feeling inadequate at first is normal? Yes. It was a humbling lesson worth its weight in gold.

The people, of course, are the ones who enabled me to learn all of the above and who make the mill a wonderful place to work. Thank you to Philip from Human Resources for reading through my over-the-top Green Dream content pitches and approving my mounds of photos. Thank you to my supervisor, Alicja, for consistently advocating for our little department, for always making time for her students, and for comparing me to the great Bill Nye. There is no better compliment. Thank you to my fellow TSD student, Julien, for sharing in the many sewer adventures, for communicating his vast amount of workplace experience, and for introducing me to Google Earth. Take a look at the mill with the program; it’s almost as good as being there! Thank you to the nice man in the maintenance department who offered me and Julien coffee once. Thank you to Alex from the environmental department for taking all the new employees on a site tour. Thank you to Daniel from water quality, who generously mentored the tech services summer students in EVERYTHING water related. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all the employees who participated in the “Working Women of Thunder Bay Pulp and Paper” project. Thank you to Andrew, Sarah, and Michael from the Thunder Bay Museum for helping me find and digitize the cool historical pictures in my previous content. All the good in what I’ve published on the mill is a reflection of the awesome people above.  

The dumper platform, which, in the photo, has amazingly not yet reached its maximum angle

To wrap up (as one would do with paper), you never forget your first industrial love, so my last thank you goes to the FPAC for allowing me to publicly record my adoration. I thoroughly enjoyed running around the facility with a camera and sharing Thunder Bay Pulp and Paper with the wider community, and I’m glad I was able to leave a tangible “paper trail”.

For more information contact:
Kerry Patterson-Baker
Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs
kpatterson-baker@fpac.ca
(613) 563-1441 x 314
Follow FPAC on Twitter: @FPAC_APFC
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