CAMP MINDEN, LA (KSLA) - An LSU-Shreveport professor is pointing to a safer way to dispose of million pounds of M6 propellant abandoned at Camp Minden - and he says it comes from the same government that currently plans to burn the explosive material out in the open.
Imagine an invisible cloud of toxic, cancer causing vapors getting into the soil, the drinking water, livestock, pets and people. That nightmare scenario is exactly what some fear if the government pushes ahead with its plans to burn 15-million pounds of explosives material left behind at Camp Minden in Webster Parish following the discovery of illegally-stored material and the bankruptcy of Explo Systems, Inc.
The EPA insists open-tray burning will destroy a great deal of the toxic, cancer-causing agents in the explosives. But not everyone is convinced. That includes Dr. Robert Flournoy, a local Environmental Toxicologist: "Show us the proof. If you think it's safe, show us the proof. And that's what they need to do."
Others take it a step further, saying an open-burn will not destroy all the dangerous toxins - period. "In an open burn the vapors can go any which way direction. They're not going to necessarily go up to the top and be decomposed and combusted. They can go anywhere," explained LSU-Shreveport Chemistry Professor Brian Salvatore.
The professor said the government's decision-making process to burn the explosives is disappointing to him. "I feel like I had an illusion of the EPA. I thought they were there to protect us."
Salvatore points to past attempts at open-tray burning of propellant elsewhere in the country that he says led to higher cancer rates. "In the Badger ammunition site in Wisconsin. The Picatinny site in New Jersey there was a huge public outcry when they talked about burning 5-thousand pounds a year," added Salvatore.
The Camp Minden open-tray burn would dwarf that effort, with plans to burn 8,000 pounds a day for at least 200 days. That's why he claims this plan borders on criminal negligence.
Ye, Salvatore says the safer solution for disposal comes from the very same government that's planning to use open-trays to burn tens of thousands of pounds of old explosives every day for a full year.
"There was a report that the Army itself published back in 1988 that shows how all these chemicals can be re-purposed and recycled. None of them have to be burned."
That plan was developed for the U.S. Army by a private contractor up in Massachusetts, Arthur D. Little. It would call for the propellant to be ground up safely under water and packaged in barrels. "Eliminates the explosive threat immediately," said Salvatore.
Then, they can take their time, bid a contract for the safe recycling of the material, which Salvatore estimates could be sold for more than 10-million dollars, to offset the costs of the project.
Dr. Flournoy supports the idea. "We need to re-use and recycle would be the best thing and he has a great idea."
Professor Salvatore has shared his recycling plan with the EPA and promised to forward the government-sponsored report to them.
KSLA News 12 also reached out by email to EPA Region 6 Director Carl Edlund and sent him a copy of the recycling report. We then sent the very same email and information to Governor Bobby Jindal's office. We're still waiting for a response from both offices.
Since the last public information meeting hosted by the EPA, open-burn opponents have started an online petition. It was posted by a group referring to themselves as the "
." 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, at 1212 Captain Shreve Drive.
Then on Tuesday, January 13, Rep. Reynolds will host a private meeting of his own at LSU-Shreveport. It will include Professor Salvatore along with many of those who were ready and willing to take part in a conference call that was canceled at the last moment on Thursday by Governor Jindal's office. Reynolds says he does not expect the governor's office to take part.