CAMP MINDEN — If everything goes according to plan, Explosive Service International could be disposing of M6 propellant by April.
Dean Schellhase, with ESI, gave a generous timeline of activity before the actual destruction of the millions of pounds of M6 propellant begins. He says construction and systemization, or making sure everything works, could take up six to seven weeks.
“In front of us is the (construction of the) feed shelter building, the foundation and then the actual building,” he said. “This is going to cover the trough, the trolley that’s actually going to feed the M6 propellant into the chamber. There’s a lot of stuff that has to get done.”
About three weeks ago, he says, they started making sure everything is working, and will continue to do so until construction is complete.
Community air monitoring will take about two weeks to tell them what’s in the air before the burn, and then the ramp up period will take about 30 days.
Scott Skelton, senior industrial hygienist from the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health, or CTEH, in Little Rock, Arkansas, says the entire objective is to keep the community safe. He says they will be testing for any chemicals in the air associated with the M6 destruction.
“These sampling stations monitor indiscriminately,” he said. “That means they are measuring the air for particulates, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide whether the burn unit is running or not.
“But even during the burn, these stations can detect and are very sensitive to the compounds in the air that may or may not be related to the burn site,” he continued. “Some of the things that could affect these stations is burning leaves, dust storms, heavy weather, high pollen, compounds that may be consistent with M6 propellant from industrial processes or commercial processes.”
If the stations pick up anything, Skelton says they will investigate, turn their findings over to the proper agency and that information will be assessed as soon as possible.
There are four sampling stations, two on site, one at the northeast corner of Camp Minden and one at the southeast corner, near the fire training academy. Two are in the community – one at Princeton Elementary, the other at the Haughton Fire Department.
“It’s important for us to collect two weeks of background data before we ever start burning the first grain of propellant,” Schellhase said.
The next phase will be the “ramp up,” which will begin about the first or second week in April. Schellhase says once they go through all the protocols, they will begin with a small amount of propellant, test it, fine tune the process and burn larger amounts until they reach the optimal amount, which is around 880 pounds per tray, three trays per hour. This should take about 30 days.
Once they make sure it’s working properly, then they will conduct a comprehensive performance test, or CPT, which will define their operating limits. Samples are collected, sent to a lab, reviewed and a report is written with the results with about a three-week turnaround time. The actual performance test will take about seven days.
Schellhase made it clear in the interest of safety, during that approximate three-week period, all operations will shut down until they are given the go ahead to begin destruction in earnest.
Jason Poe, president of ESI, says weather will play a big part in the timeline.
“We don’t know of any other project in the world as big as this one,” he said, “and all work is weather permitting.”
ESI officials say they monitor the weather, and the biggest enemy of the contained burn chamber is lightning. If lightning is within five miles of the chamber site, all work will come to a halt.
Those in attendance questioned whether more munitions would be brought to Camp Minden after the destruction of the M6 is complete and were assured that it would not.
Carl Edlund, with the Environmental Protection Agency, says the plan calls for the dismantling of the system once destruction is complete.
Once destruction begins, it will take approximately one year or less to conclude the project.