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International Paper offering payments to residents affected by explosion

International Paper is now offering payments to residents in areas affected by the explosion earlier this month. In a statement, the company said:

In addition to our cleanup efforts, International Paper is providing a payment to our neighbors in the affected area. The only purpose of this payment is to assist our neighbors during their time of inconvenience. International Paper recognizes the impact this incident had on the surrounding residents and businesses. We are committed to making sure all needs are addressed and managed fairly. Residents in the affected area can call our community information and response line at 850-968-4208 with their questions and concerns.

Workers in what IP specifies are "clean-up" suits, not hazmat suits, continue to wash down homes coated by a chemical sludge during the explosion earlier this month. People in the area have been told they're not in danger, but a mother we spoke to doesn't believe everything will be OK.

"Absolutely not," she said. "Is it ever? Don't they always lie?"

She's scared for her health and her family's and asked us not to use her name.

"You know it took them five days to get here," she said. "They didn't even come, the stuff was inches thick on my neighbor's homes. I drove through it every day, it's going up into my car, I could smell it in my truck."

She said IP has put them up in a hotel for eight days because her son who has autism got so sick after the explosion.

Attorney Aaron Watson said other residents have contacted him, worried about long-term harm.

"This is damage control, that's what they're out there doing, this is damage control," Watson said.

He said he's learned International Paper has offered some people payments of $500 for their inconvenience.

"Now from my line of work, when people come to your home and offer money after a claim such as this, it should perk up your ears. It should raise the red flags because they want to get rid of the case now," Watson said.

Channel 3 asked International Paper if people have to sign any kind of a release or waiver of claim to get the payments. Their exact response was, "No. The only purpose of this payment is to assist our neighbors during their time of inconvenience."

While a resident said the payments being offered were $500, International Paper did not specify a dollar amount in their statement. We asked if the payments are based on neighborhood boundaries, or on a case-by-case basis.

We have not received an answer yet.

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