EPA: Agreement For Camp Minden Explosives Cleanup

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Fifteen million pounds of artillery propellant abandoned at Camp Minden will be burned in trays holding shallow layers of the powder instead of an incinerator, The Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday.

         The plan was made under emergency rules because Army munitions disposal experts say the M6 propellant is likely to become much more unstable about a year from now, EPA regional Superfund director Carl Edlund said Wednesday.

         "It could accelerate and blow up again," he said. "We've been driven by the idea that this problem really needs to be solved within the next year."

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         Louisiana State Police investigating an Oct. 17, 2012, explosion in one of Explo Systems Inc.'s 98 bunkers found that the company had tons of improperly stored explosives on a 110-acre site in northwestern Louisiana leased from the state's National Guard.

         Jerri Ray de Pingre', president and CEO of the Minden-South Webster Chamber of Commerce, said she was both excited that bunkers where the explosive has been stored will be emptied out and disappointed by the prospect of open burning.

         "We are anxious to create economic development at Camp Minden, and that can't happen until all those bunkers are cleared up," she said.

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         But local leaders had wanted an incinerator built on site.

         That would take too long — a year or two just to bid out and build, Edlund said.

         Open burning won't mean "huge clouds and big booms," he said. "These are propellants that if not confined are not going to boom. And they're smokeless."

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         Both EPA and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality will check air quality during the burning, he said.

         The Louisiana National Guard will manage the disposal contract, said Lt. Col. Michael Kazmierzak.

         The M6 arrived under a multimillion-dollar military contract to dismantle propelling charges used in artillery rounds.

         Three other companies are dealing with another 3 million pounds of various explosives, Edlund said.

         Seven Explo Systems officials were indicted on charges related to the explosives and three have pleaded guilty. Former contracts manager Clifford Morrison, who was indicted after the others, is cooperating, and charges against the company, owners David Fincher and David Smith, and plant manager Terry Wright are still pending, District Attorney Schyuler Marvin said Wednesday.

         The men face 10 charges: unlawful storage of explosives, reckless use of explosives, failure to get a magazine license, failure to properly mark explosive material, failure to keep accurate inventory, and a conspiracy charge linked to each of those.

         – by AP Reporter Janet McConnaughey


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