The public got its first chance to voice concerns and ask questions about the disposal of what's left of the 16-million pounds of artillery propellant that was abandoned two years ago by the now-bankrupt Explo Systems, Inc.
Webster Parish Sheriff Gary Sexton called for the meeting that got underway earlier Thursday evening at the Minden Civic Center. But exactly how they're disposing of the propellant was not up for debate.
An open pit burn test conducted back in January demonstrated how the EPA plans to destroy all the M-6 propellant left behind at Camp Minden. But Sheriff Sexton explained that many people have many questions about the open burn.
Sexton said those questions include: "Are we going to see smoke? Are we going to smell smoke? Is it going to affect me in any way?"
Sexton said one of the biggest questions involves airborne particles: "Are we going to have residue that's going to end up being on our cars in the morning time or in the evening time?"
And if there is residue, many also question what affect it might have on people and property.
"They (EPA) believe this is the safest and most efficient way" says Sexton.
State and federal regulators have promised to check air quality during the burning.
The other option was to incinerate the propellant, but the EPA said that could take a year or two just to bid out and build.
"The longer this stuff sits, the more unstable it gets" explained Sexton.
In Fact, this propellant is described as a ticking time bomb. Two years ago, an explosion in one of Explo Systems, Inc's 98 bunkers led to the discovery of tons of improperly stored explosives. Explo is now bankrupt. Uncle Sam is footing the huge bill to clean up this dangerous mess and it will be overseen by the Army, the EPA and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.
Sheriff Sexton says his biggest concern is not the burning process itself, but the safety and well-being of the crews who will be moving the propellant into place to be burned.
"Sure, I got a concern for them. I really do. I wouldn't want their job. You know, it takes a special kind of person to deal with a material like this" says Sexton.
The open burn is expected to get underway in early 2015, but it won't be cheap. It will cost about $20 million and take about a year to complete.
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