EPA approves disposal of explosives at Minden

By Bonnie Culverhouse
Journal Correspondent

• Minden LA

After years of worrying and months of waiting, residents of Northwest Louisiana and East Texas now know the method the Army will use to destroy more than 16 million pounds of M6 propellant at Camp Minden located between Minden and Doyline, Louisiana.

The illegally and improperly stored M6, a toxic propellant in grenades and artillery rounds, was left behind by now-bankrupt Explo Systems Inc. and discovered by Louisiana State Police during the investigation following an explosion in October 2012.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced on May 8 that it will not exercise its right to disapprove of the Louisiana Military Department's (LMD) recommendation to go with Baton Rouge-based Explosive Service International (ESI) and its contained burn method of disposal to destroy the M6, as well as 320,000 pounds of clean burning igniter.

"The recommendation includes accepting the advanced air pollution control options to maximize safety and flexibility in handling the rapidly decomposing materials and deteriorating storage and packaging materials," said EPA Regional 6 administrator Ron Curry. "The EPA completed an extensive review of the state's recommendation with the safety of the public as our most important consideration."

Members of Concerned Citizens of the Camp Minden M6 Open Burn are pleased with the decision to use closed incineration as opposed to open tray burn.

"People stood united to protect this place, and officials paid attention," said Dolores Blalock, a communications professor from California State University, Chico who now lives on her family farm in Saline.

Blalock, who also owns property in Doyline, sounded the alarm about the EPA'S original order to open burn the largest stockpile of M6 propellant in U.S. history at Camp Minden. She, along with other concerned citizens, united in December 2014 and beganthe fight to stop the open burn and change the method of disposal.

"We had support nationally from many groups," Blalock said. "Politicians stood up to do the right thing. Great media coverage kept people informed. Now we can all breathe easier. We have won that right."

On the heels of the announcement that the chosen method would be contained burn, members of the Concerned Citizens Group and guests met at First Baptist Church in Doyline to celebrate their recent victory. They officially welcomed the newly-formed Citizens Advisory Committee. The group was set up to monitor the removal of the M6 military waste at Camp Minden while serving in an advisory capacity to the EPA.

Members of CAG were joined by Col. Ron Stuckey of the National Guard, EPA agents and core members of the Concerned Citizens Group who have moved their efforts from "fight mode" to "follow through."

Those in attendance included Dr. Brian Salvatore, Mickey Walsh, Melissa Downer, Rick Broussard, Retired U.S. Col. Sam Mims, Rebecca Schelley Sherrard, Ron Hagar, Alice Bond, Frances Kelley, Annetta Garner, Kerry McNamara and Chris Broussard, as well as other residents from Doyline and surrounding communities. Special guests included David Madden and Doug Madden who had previously withdrawn their original bid for incineration.

David Madden explained the process of contained burned and applauded the group for having stopped the burn.

"Because of you, they're going to create the world's best, cleanest, most efficient and safest air scrubbing system that man can build," he said. "NASA can't build one better than the one you all specified. Looking from the engineering and how it works, I can go to sleep tonight, tomorrow, next week, and I'm not worried about it. They're (EPA) not going to let somebody sneak up on us and pull the wool over our eyes. I'm proud of y'all. You went through the process and saved our environment."

"This contained burned incinerator has an advanced pollution abatement system that ranks it among the world's most technologically advanced incinerators," said Salvatore, a chemistry professor at LSU Shreveport. "I am comfortable with the LMD's selection and agree with the EPA's decision to move forward with it."

Salvatore said he supports the stringent emissions monitoring system being implemented to make sure this incinerator is safely operated at its optimal capacity. "The NOX scrubber recommended by the EPA for the Camp Minden contained burn is actually even better than the standard one described by David Madden," Salvatore said. "This one will use SCR (selective catalytic reduction)."

In response to intense citizen opposition to the open burn disposal of M6 explosive stored at Camp Minden, the EPA sponsored the formation of a Dialogue Committee whose function was to investigate and propose safe alternative solutions to the open burn.

Citizens Advisory Group led by Ron Hagar and a 20- member board will meet on the second Monday of each month at Doyline Baptist Church. Elected officials and other concerned citizens are invited to join and attend the monthly meetings. For more information about the Citizens Advisory, contact Ron Hagar at hagaron@att.net.

Actual removal of the propellant will begin once LMD officially awards the job to ESI.

The final disposition of the abandoned explosives at Camp Minden will close the book on ordnance manufacturing that began in World War II, continued through Korea and Viet Nam, and later military actions around the world. See the timeline from the beginning, in this issue.