By a unanimous vote Tuesday, the Webster Parish Police Jury added their voices to other public bodies and citizens’ groups in the area in petitioning the Environmental Protection Agency to remove M6 propellant from Camp Minden.
But, the police jury’s resolution will be worded differently from most others. Members do not intend to question the method of disposal as much as they want to emphasize the need for prompt action in the propellant’s removal.
“We have to be careful not to say we’re against open tray burn,” jury president Jim Bonsall said during a committee meeting prior to the public body’s monthly meeting. “It still might be the way it needs to be, but it has to be proven it is the safest.”
Bonsall said at some point the EPA and the local delegation has to come to agreement on the safest way to remove the M6.
“We’ve got to be thinking about it sitting out there getting more unstable and older,” he said. “It’s not about burning it, it’s about disposing of it. If you burn it or whatever, you’ll get some emissions for sure. We want to believe whatever they decide is safest without the danger of emission.”
Attorney Patrick Jackson, who represents the police jury, said the EPA is supposed to be the resident expert on the propellant and the best and safest method of disposal. It is the EPA, which dictated this methodology for disposal, he added.
“We’ve relied on the EPA to say this is the way you’re supposed to do it. When they put the arm on the Army to put up the money (for disposal), the EPA mandated open tray burn,” Jackson explained. “The state has had no flexibility. The state has some expertise, but not that of the EPA.”
Part of the problem, which has caused such an outcry over the disposal method and confusion over what’s being dealt with at Camp Minden, has been the EPA’s failure to let the public know what’s going on.
“The EPA did such a poor job of educating the public that outside influences have come in to kind of destabilize the integrity of the process,” Jackson said. “Because the EPA is being quiet, the only voices being heard are these outside voices. And, the state has been led to believe by the EPA that there are no other choices.”
There’s another part of the possible pollution equation that has gone practically unnoticed by the public in the Camp Minden area, Jackson pointed out.
“We’re wrapping all this into an M6 problem and that’s not true. That was an ammunition plant and it did a lot of stuff for a long time,” he said. “People in the most recent history have forgotten that and what it was put there for. There are products in the public domain when we talk about pollution levels that precede all this.”
Quoting Bonsall, Jackson said people are coming up with their own theories and others begin giving credibility to people who understand only a small piece of the puzzle.
Representatives of the EPA at previous meetings may not have been authorized to speak on behalf of the agency, Jackson pointed out. That, he believes, could be why the agency has seemed to be silent.
“They seem to be reticent to have someone to step forward,” he said. “They need a much higher level person to speak for the EPA. They need to find someone to come to the public that has the authority to speak on behalf of the EPA.”
Jackson and the jury’s secretary-treasurer, Ronda Carnahan, will prepare the resolution for approval by the body.