Wacker employees still getting paid while production idles for plant repairs

Clouds billow from the Wacker polysilicon chemical plant after an explosion released a hydrogen chemical gas on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, in Charleston, Tenn. The explosion closed the plant, but a statement from Wacker says air quality was unaffected.

The biggest manufacturing investment in Southeast Tennessee will likely remain idle until early next year after a pair of explosions in late August and early September forced the plant in Charleston, Tenn., to cease production of a key ingredient for the solar power industry.

Wacker Chemical expects to lose one-fourth of its global production of polysilicon while it assesses and repairs its Charleston plant, which was damaged in a fire and explosion Sept. 7 and a plant fire eight days earlier. But the German chemical company is continuing to maintain its 687-employee staff in Charleston, reassigning and training workers while plant repairs are made and an ongoing $150 million expansion of the facility continues.

"Restarting production will take several months," said Mary Beth Hudson, vice president and site manager for the $2.5