Army rejects EPA's order to clean up Camp Minden

Army rejects EPA's mandate to clean up Camp Minden

CAMP MINDEN, LA (KSLA) - The U.S. Army said it will not comply with the EPA's order that it clean up propellant it shipped to Camp Minden, hedging on the bet that the environmental agency doesn't have the authority to even make the demand.

But representatives from Sen. Mary Landrieu's (D-LA) office said they believe the Army will end up agreeing to at least part of the EPA's directive.

Environmental officials have said the millions of pounds of M6 propellant is improperly stored at the Webster Parish facility. The EPA claims it was the Army's lack of oversight that lead to the improper handling of the material, which in turn created a very dangerous situation for residents of Webster and Bossier parishes.

"It is time for the negotiations and the bargaining to stop and the cleanup to begin. The residents of North Louisiana are living with a ticking time bomb in their backyard, and they deserve to be able to sleep at night without worrying that it will blow up," said U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu in an emailed response to the Army's letter to the EPA.

The letter was sent Tuesday telling the EPA exactly what it thinks. It does not believe it was the Army's duty to oversee the post-contractual actions of an independent contractor conducting operations on areas not under Army jurisdiction or control.

Boiled down, the Army's argument is that Camp Minden is state-run property, and it was doing business with a private contractor - Explo. The Army had until Monday to notify the EPA of its intent to comply with the order.

But legislators, both state and federal, who have sided with the EPA, will not back down.

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) has said the Army should take responsibility for disposing of the explosives. Tuesday, he reiterated that plea, and said he will block the nomination of Alissa M. Starzak as General Counsel of the Department of the Army until the material is removed.

State legislators encouraged by the federal access the U.S. legislators had to all the key players expressed frustration over the delays. 

"The Department of Army is waiting on instructions from the Department of Justice, the EPA and the DOJ, they're all within a stones throw of each other in D.C.. Get this done," said Louisiana Representative Jeff Thompson from Bossier City. 

The material was found during an inspection by a Louisiana State Police investigator following up on the October 15, 2012 explosion inside a bunker on property leased by Explo, and determined to be improperly stored, which resulted in a criminal investigation and several arrests.

The cost for cleanup is estimated to be $23 million.

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