Contractor makes case for permanent disposal site at Camp Minden

Contractor makes case for permanent disposal site at Camp Minden
Explosive Services International has been working to dispose of nearly 16 million pounds of M6 propellant at Camp Minden in this giant burn chamber since June of 2016.
(Source: MJ&H Fabrication)
(Source: MJ&H Fabrication)

CAMP MINDEN, LA (KSLA) - Explosive Service International says they are running a tight, clean ship disposing of artillery propellant at Camp Minden and could help the local economy if they're allowed to stay open permanently.

That was the message during a tour of the site Tuesday, as ESI showed local media how the disposal operation works.

Company officials would not allow us to get too close to the contained burn chamber on the site in the northwest corner of Camp Minden. But inside their control center, we got a closer look at how they remotely destroy 880 pounds of M6 artillery propellant every 20 minutes or so. That comes to 50 thousand pounds a day.

Leaders of Baton Rouge-based ESI say they have now burned up 53 percent of the 15 million pounds of M6 they were contracted to destroy. They expect to wrap up the job by April or May, depending on the weather.

"We planned to have open discussions about our future out here," said Vice President Jason Poe, who says they want to keep the burn chamber open permanently to destroy only hazardous waste in the future, not toxic waste.

By contract, ESI is supposed to tear down the burn chamber and take it away once the M6 job is completed.

That's not going over well with citizens who want to hold the contractor to their agreement.

"A contract is your word. A contract says that it would be torn down and moved out. We don't want any more hazardous material poisoning our grandchildren," said one of the dozens that spoke out Monday night at a packed public meeting of the Camp Minden Citizens Advisory Group.

The prospect of the disposal operation staying at Camp Minden permanently has already prompted a petition urging the Webster and Bossier Parish police juries to hold ESI to their original agreement.

Jason Poe says they have been genuinely surprised by that strong public reaction. He tells us they employ 35 local people, have spent $6 million in the local economy this year and says it would be a shame to just tear down the burn chamber.

"We can honestly say this is the most advanced facility, with the most advanced pollution abatement system in the world," Poe added.

Louisiana Army National Guard spokesman Col. Ed Bush says the guard will go along with the wishes of the parish. Webster Parish Police Jury President Jim Bonsall says he will abide by the public's wishes, which he says as of now looks like a resounding 'no.'

Bonsall says the police jury could vote on where they stand on the issue at their next meeting on Tuesday, December 6. That meeting gets underway at 10:30 a.m. on the second floor of the Webster Parish Courthouse at 410 Main Street in Minden.

Keeping ESI at Camp Minden would require a new contract. Poe says his company is not considering a formal proposal to keep the burn chamber open at this point.

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