Wednesday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized an agreement with the Louisiana Department of Environmental (LDEQ), Louisiana Military Department (LMD) and the U.S. Army (Army) to dispose of 15 million pounds of abandoned explosives at Camp Minden.
Under the final agreement, the Louisiana Military Department will control burn more than 15 million pounds of smokeless propellants in specifically designed burn trays with funding provided by the United States liability fund, on behalf of the Army. EPA and LDEQ will oversee the work and environmental safety.
“This agreement provides a comprehensive solution that protects public health and the environment,” EPA Regional Administrator Ron Curry said. “It reflects the dedication and hard work of all our partners.”
Peggy Hatch, LDEQ secretary, officially requested that EPA Region VI meet with local and parish officials to discuss concerns with the open burning.
“They (local officials) asked that my office facilitate a meeting between EPA and themselves wherein EPA could explain its choice of open burning over other methods, including incineration,” Hatch said. “Many expressed concerns over air emissions and the speed of destruction of the material by use of open pan burning.”
Since 2005, Camp Minden, a former Army base, was owned and managed by the Louisiana Military Department. A private company under contract with the Army and other private companies used the site to improperly store obsolete explosives and propellant.
In July 2014, EPA ordered the Army to eliminate the imminent and substantial endangerment posed by the M6 artillery propellant stored at the camp. Louisiana also issued an order to the Army to perform the cleanup. Under the terms of the settlement, both the EPA and State of Louisiana orders will be withdrawn.
“The abandoned explosives become more unstable as they age, increasing the chances of an uncontrolled explosion,” Curry said. “Due to the volume of the abandoned propellant and explosives, on-site destruction represents the most efficient and effective cleanup alternative to address the site.”
Curry said the EPA feels on-site destruction of the abandoned explosives is not only designed to achieve an efficient and effective cleanup of the site, but also abate the risks to public health and the environment.
“Because the stability of the abandoned explosives cannot be guaranteed, an expeditious destruction of the explosives is needed,” he said.
The agreement will become effective November 4. EPA’s past costs incurred at the site will be subject to a comment period and will be published in the Federal Register on or about October 31. After a 30-day public comment period, EPA will finalize the agreement regarding recovery of past costs.