Talk of permanent burn site at Camp Minden prompts petition

CAMP MINDEN, LA (KSLA) - Some residents are up in arms about the possibility of a permanent hazardous waste disposal site being created at Camp Minden.

If that was to happen, it would be after the contained burn chamber finishes destroying 15 million pounds of M6 artillery propellant. That job is half done now. Destruction of the M6 likely will continue into April.

Talk of a possibly permanent operation is expected to be the topic of conversation and likely heated debate at a Citizens Advisory Group meeting at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 14 in the Family Life Center at First Baptist Church in Doyline.

News of a possibly permanent operation comes just a week after the destruction of the last clean-burning igniter, some of which exploded Sept. 29.

It's just the latest development in the past four years to worry people who live near Camp Minden.

The trouble began Oct. 15, 2012, with a huge explosion that rocked the area. That soon led to the discovery of more than 15 million pounds of Cold War-era M6 artillery propellant being found improperly stored there.

Trains would be one way toxic hazardous waste could make its way to Camp Minden for destruction if Baton Rouge-based Explosive Service International can convince authorities to let it continue operating its state-of-the-art contained burn chamber.

"We've demonstrated repeatedly that the air that's coming out of our stack is two times cleaner than the air that is being breathed by the community," said Jason Poe, ESI vice president.

The operation at Camp Minden employs more than 30 people from Bossier and Webster parishes and so far has spent $6 million in the local economy, he added.

But when ESI was contracted to dispose of all that propellant left behind after the bankruptcy of Explo Systems Inc., the disposal agreements stipulated that the burn chamber would be dismantled and taken away once the job was over.

Concerned citizen Alice Bond told KSLA News 12: "We're pleased with how it's being processed. But we had an agreement. It comes down, it goes."

Opponents of a permanent burn chamber already have gathered more than 600 signatures on a petition against it.

Bond and others say they're horrified by the possibility of more dangerous material being brought into their community.

"I'm sure they can find other land to put it on. It is not going to stay here," Bond said.

Poe insists that, unlike the M6 propellant, this material won't be unstable or pose any threat of explosion. "Unstable material is not shipped. It's not legal to ship unstable material on highways or rails or waterways."

Making the burn chamber permanent would require a new contract.

Camp Minden Citizens Advisory Group member Rebecca Sherrard vows to fight this tooth and nail. "We don't need to become Louisiana's waste disposal system."

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