No word on how to prevent more incidents at Camp Minden

EPA: Camp Minden material can't be moved, handled safely

CAMP MINDEN, LA (KSLA) - It's been 9 days since the latest incident at Camp Minden.

There's still no word on exactly how the Army National Guard plans to ensure it doesn't happen again.

And preventing it could be easier said than done.

The Louisiana Army National Guard describes what happened most recently at the compound near Doyline as a combustion explosive incident, something it says is very different from an explosion. Clean-burning igniter, or C-B-I, self-ignited inside a bunker and burned at a very fast rate and at very high temperature.

The very moment that happened just after 5 a.m. Sept. 29 can be seen on video from a dash cam of a Louisiana State Police cruiser.

LSU-Shreveport chemistry professor Brian Salvatore described C-B-I as "... a cousin of M6."

M6 is the Cold War era artillery propellant that was found improperly stored at Camp Minden after a huge explosion late the evening Oct. 15, 2012. That blast shattered windows 4 miles away in Minden and created a 7,000-foot mushroom cloud.

Investigators later found 15 million pounds of M6 and 300,000 pounds of C-B-I, much of it in bags and out in the open. Authorities have since moved the bagged chemicals into bunkers - 90 of M6 and 3 of igniter.

Images taken from a State Police helicopter show the aftermath of the most recent incident on the east side of the camp.

Just as it did in 2012, the National Weather Service said its radar picked up a column of smoke right after it happened.

The C-B-I combustion explosive incident occurred more than 4 miles from the site where a contractor is operating a yearlong, 24-hour-a-day burn operation to incinerate all the M-6 propellant and the remaining 100 tons of igniter.

Until that's done, the C-B-I sits in two remaining bunkers and off limits to general on-site personnel.

"I would hope that they could find a way to stabilize the material," said Salvatore, who was part of a citizens' group that fought hard for a clean burn process for the M6.

The professor said he's heard of one way to prevent another C-B-I incident. "It could be doused with water, put under water and it would be kept stable."

David Gray, of the EPA, said an Army Explosive Safety Board team inspected the site just days ago to help determine whether additional safety measures are warranted. "While I know that everyone is hearing about a variety of different possible options for addressing the remaining C-B-I, you should know that no decision has made at this point in time," he said in a statement released to the media.

If Salvatore is correct and keeping the C-B-I wet is the answer, that leads to the next challenge:

"The question is what we have in each bunker is 120,000 pounds. You can't just pick up a big pile and put it all in water at once," the professor said.

If that solution proves too risky, Salvatore said, the most extreme option could be a controlled detonation of each C-B-I bunker. "But that would be the first time in American history that we've ever had to do something like that."

He also cautioned that a controlled detonation would come with its own set of problems, the most obvious being all the dust it would create in the nearby community and the potential health hazards.

That destruction of all the M6 propellant and C-B-I is scheduled to wrap up in April.

"We are confident that the Louisiana Military Department and their contractor Explosive Services International will continue to keep the disposal of these munitions as safe as possible until their task is complete," says a statement recently released by Ron Hagar, chairman of the Camp Minden Citizens Advisory Group. "We look forward to their report on the progress of the disposal work at our next public meeting."

That gathering is set for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 17 in the Family Life Center at First Baptist Church in Doyline. It is open to the public.

The propellant was left behind by Explo Systems Inc., which went bankrupt in 2013.

Its owners and 4 company officials pleaded not guilty to federal charges earlier this month. They are accused of lying to get contracts to demilitarize the propellant, storing it unsafely and obstructing inspections.

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