Dialogue Committee tackles Camp Minden M6 propellant disposal alternatives

Dialogue Committee tackles Camp Minden M6 propellant disposal alternatives

MINDEN, LA (KSLA) - The Minden Dialogue Committee wrapped up its first meeting Thursday night. The goal:  To look for a better way to dispose of 15 million pounds of M6 artillery propellant at Camp Minden. The meeting itself is considered a major victory by those who opposed the plan to burn all that material in an open tray burn.

The dialogue committee consists of individual volunteers, community leaders, scientists and elected officials. Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agreed to a 90-day extension on a plan for an open tray burn and announced the creation of this committee. More meetings and conference calls are scheduled in the days and weeks to follow.

Back in October, the Louisiana National Guard, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, the EPA and the Army all signed an agreement to an open-tray burn. But in the months that followed, opposition steadily grew against that method because of expert testimony that warned of the potentially devastating health and environmental effects to local residents if known cancer-causing agents were released into the atmosphere from that open burning of 80,000 pounds of propellant per day, for more than 200 days. That's what the original agreement would have allowed.

Before Thursday's meeting got underway, Frances Kelley of Louisiana Progress Action told us she's encouraged that all sides seem to be thinking beyond the open-tray burn now.

"From my perspective and from the perspective of the people in the community I'm talking to, it's off the table" says Kelley.

Ron Curry, the EPA's Region 6 administrator explained, "We want to protect the human health and the environment and we want to get there, find a solution that's done in a collaborative process."

But further compounding the problem is the biggest threat of all, that if this artillery propellant, which is already 25 to 35 years old, degrades enough, it could self-ignite. We're told it would be a catastrophe.

"Because we have the big explosion of one bunker in October 2012 it had a 7000 foot mushroom cloud as a result of that bunker exploding. And we have 97 bunkers up there filled with this M6 right now," explained chemist Wilma Subra.

Curry says that once the dialogue committee wraps up its work and members agree on an acceptable alternative, that action can begin on that remedy within 60 to 90 days from now.

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