SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - A grassroots group took another step forward on Saturday in its efforts to stop the government from following through with the open-tray burning of 15 million pounds of M6 propellant at Camp Minden in Webster Parish.
Saturday's step involved creating an action plan on how to move forward, and the plan comes as the EPA makes another statement about the open burn process.
"You know one voice can make a difference," said Minden resident Melissa Downer, who added she isn't the only person standing up to stop the open burn.
One voice has grown to more than 3,000 voices and counting in a matter of days.
"I think citizens in Minden and the surrounding area have been paying attention," Frances Kelly said.
In November the EPA announced its plan to use an open-tray burn to dispose of M6 propellant.
It was all left behind by the now-bankrupt Explo Systems Inc. Company at Camp Minden. That company's collapse and legal woes all began back on October 15, 2012 when some of that improperly stored material exploded inside a storage igloo, shaking a large part of the area.
It's a memory that hasn't yet faded for Downer.
"Shook my entire house. Didn't know what had happened," Downer said. "Thought a bomb had went off, which honestly it had."
She says she trusted that the government had cleanup efforts under control, but she recently learned the dangers that the burn could create for the region.
LSU Shreveport professor Brian Salvatore fears that cancer-causing agents could be released in the burn vapor and that the dust will carry.
"Bad decisions go on to haunt us forever," Salvatore said.
In an effort to prevent a nightmare scenario, the grassroots group Concerned Citizens of the Camp Minden M6 Open Burn have started a petition, and the effort is gaining momentum. Those against the burn are being told to contact elected leaders to demand a safe solution.
"I've reached out to Erin Brockovich, and we did get a reply from her personally, and she is wanting to jump in and help in any way that she can," Downer said.
On Friday the EPA announced that a trial burn would take place to ease concerns, but members of the group aren't buying the attempt.
"It's not our job to tell them how to do their job. We just want to know that what they're doing is safe," Kelly said.
"I'd say the absolute worst thing to do is an open burn," Salvatore said.
He said there are alternatives, including one to recycle the material instead. He added that those options could generate revenue.
"Why would we burn something that has so many millions of dollars of value? I estimate the two things that we're most worried about could be valued as much as $11 million," Salvatore said.
Salvatore will sit down with state representatives and the EPA on Tuesday in an effort to reach a safe agreement.