Opposition mounts against explosives cleanup plan at Camp Minden - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Opposition mounts against explosives cleanup plan at Camp Minden

15 million pounds of M6 propellant was left behind at Camp Minden by the now bankrupt Explo. (Source: Louisiana State Police) 15 million pounds of M6 propellant was left behind at Camp Minden by the now bankrupt Explo. (Source: Louisiana State Police)
Mahaffey Farms Facebook post (Source: Facebook) Mahaffey Farms Facebook post (Source: Facebook)
CAMP MINDEN, LA (KSLA) - An LSU-Shreveport chemistry professor has now joined the growing ranks of people and groups opposing the explosives cleanup plan at Camp Minden. Dr. Brian Salvatore, a Chemistry professor at LSU-S, is warning citizens about the potential consequences of burning 15 million pounds of M6 propellant, and the toxins that could be released into the atmosphere.

During public meetings last fall held by the EPA, the agency reassured the public that open-tray burning is the safest and most cost-effective way to get rid of the material, which has been described as a ticking time bomb if left unchecked.

Since the last meeting, some residents have taken to social media and started an online petition in attempts to prevent the burn from happening.

The online petition, posted from a group referring to themselves as the "Concerned Citizens of the Camp Minden M6 Open Burn" demands for a "safe disposal of the explosives at Camp Minden."  

The group is hosting a second strategy meeting at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 10 at the Broadmoor Branch of the Shreveport Public Library. 

Frances Kelley of Louisiana Progress Action is working with that grass-roots organization. 

"What we are asking for, and what the citizens that have been upset about this are asking for, is the safe disposal of the explosives at Camp Minden instead of the proposed open burn because it poses too much risk to human health" explains Kelley.

Kelley's organization recently published a letter by Dr. Salvatore who claims there are dangerous health risks of burning the explosive material.

The EPA says a great deal of the toxic material would be destroyed by combustion. But Salvatore says the government plans to burn 80,000 pounds of this material each day, over more than 200 days. He says that even a small amount of toxic material escaping into the atmosphere could have potentially devastating health and environmental effects.

A conference call was canceled at the last minute Thursday between local, state and federal authorities, regarding possible health concerns about the 'open burn' at Camp Minden. 

In response, Democratic State Representative Gene Reynolds of Minden released the following statement:

"After many hours of preparation, the conference call was canceled three minutes before one o'clock. Peggy Hatch, the Director LADEQ, called to notify me of this cancellation but the only explanation provided was that the phone number had been compromised and there were people invited to the call who should not have been. I could easily speculate about what is truly driving this cancellation; but I won't. It is clear, however, that the actions of myself, US Senator David Vitter, and many others are receiving little support from the State of Louisiana.

Following this announcement of cancellation, I immediately received phone calls from Senator Vitter, Congressman Fleming, and the Director of Region 6 EPA Carl Edlund. Vitter and Fleming are both disappointed that the call did not take place and have agreed to work harder to pull the entire delegation together to unite on this issue."

Rep. Reynolds later told KSLA News 12 that he will host a private meeting of his own on Tuesday, January 13 at LSU-Shreveport with many of those who were ready and willing to take part in the conference call. However, Reynolds says he does not expect the governor's office to take part.

Recent concerns even prompted Senator Vitter to write a letter to the EPA this week, asking for more information about the safety concerns. But the EPA repeated those assurances about the safety of open burning to KSLA News 12 during a phone call Thursday afternoon.  

Such reassurances do little to ease the worries of farmers like Evan McCommon, who owns Mahaffey Farms in Princeton, Louisiana. His biggest concern is that it could affect his animals and vegetables which are all organically grown and raised.  

McCommon says that's why he signed the petition to stop the open burn from taking place just 10 miles from his farm.  

"It's a reputation thing. It's like, 'Oh yeah, well that farm is actually near a chemical burn.' So, how does that, how are our costumers going to see that? I mean, it's kind of ridiculous" explains McCommon.

According to a post on Mahaffey Farms' Facebook page, the business appears to be pushing the petition started by the concerned citizens group. Mahaffey Farms posted a status Tuesday evening that reads:

"15 MILLION POUNDS of TOXIC explosives are going to BURN just a few miles away from our farm!

That's right! The Army/DOD/EPA is planning to dispose of millions of pounds of improperly stored explosives by OPEN BURNING just down the road from our farm. If the idea of this bothers you as much as it does us please get involved. Visit the petition and information sites listed in the comments! Please do not ask questions here! I/we are not going to answer questions here. Follow the links."

Those links to the petition were provided in the comments under their status.

There was also a "Day of Action" promoted on Facebook on Wednesday urging residents to call the EPA to stop the Open Burn and implement a safe disposal of the explosives. This effort asked callers to report their calls and provided a script for them to use to express their concerns.

Just before 9:30 Wednesday evening, Minden Mayor Tommy Davis also issued the following statement:

"Due to the increasing urgency regarding the proposed open burn of military propellant explosive material at Camp Minden, I would like to state that as the Mayor of City of Minden I share in the public's concern that this proposed disposal method could be detrimental to public and environmental health, as well as future economic growth, and demands further review.

It is my position that as a community we should continue expressing our concerns to our local, state, and federally elected officials. I have been involved in the more recent executive briefings and public meetings held by the EPA beginning this past Fall and will continue to be engaged in this situation.

This office will continue to support the efforts of State Representative Gene Reynolds, Senator Robert Adley, and the Webster Parish Police Jury as they work to encourage alternative disposal methods that would not only be swift, but safe. It is imperative that all parties involved act responsibly to insure that the health of our area residents, agriculture, livestock, wildlife, natural resources, and future positioning for economic growth is not put at risk. I remain hopeful that a more favorable plan of action will be adopted as we proceed in this situation."

The open burn is expected to begin early this year and is estimated to cost the U.S. Army about $20 million. It's expected to take about a year to complete.

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