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Alternative suggested to burning propellant at Camp Minden

by Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — Opponents of a plan to burn 7,500 tons of M6 artillery propellant at Camp Minden say several much safer alternatives should have been considered.

At least three are federally certified as safe ways to get rid of explosives, Craig Williams of the Chemical Weapons Working Group said during a teleconference Thursday organized by the nonprofit group Louisiana Progress.

The group also set up links to information about the alternatives on one of its websites.

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Asked about the list, Environmental Protection Agency spokesman David Gray emailed, “We are pleased to learn that people are making the best of the additional time we provided by granting an extension to the agreement.”

Earlier this month, the EPA granted a 90-day wait before its order requiring disposal of the propellant takes effect.

EPA officials have said that open burning was chosen as the way to get rid of the propellant because it will become unstable and likely to explode on its own after August, so it must be disposed of quickly. It would take too long to build an incinerator on site, they have said.

Williams said he has spent 25 years working with the Army to develop better ways to destroy the nation’s chemical weapons stockpile.

He said the Army owns a controlled detonation chamber at the Bluegrass Army Depot in Kentucky, and another method has been used in Anniston, Alabama, to get rid of explosives and propellants similar to M6 as well as chemical weapons.

Other speakers on the call were state Rep. Gene Reynolds, D-Minden, and Louisiana State University chemistry professor Brian Salvatore.

Reynolds said he has tentatively scheduled a meeting Friday with explosives experts at the Pentagon.

He said he wants a hearing about the matter. “I think, for a start, we need a joint meeting of the Homeland Security Oversight Committee — all these people in one room, under oath, and all these things they will be saying will be recorded.”

Salvatore, who has spoken at public meetings about the plan to burn M6 at Camp Minden, said the propellant’s additives include a chemical that may cause cancer and another that can cause birth defects and infertility.

Peggy Hatch, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, sent a letter Thursday to the EPA expressing dissatisfaction with how its Region 6 office “is handling its responsibilities in the disposal of munitions at Camp Minden.”

Hatch, in the letter, noted she had yet to get a response to her request for a conference call this week with the EPA to discuss the situation.

She also asked that the EPA provide the state with all data and information regarding the proposed open burn method by Jan. 28. “Because the EPA has been unable to provide this information and articulate the basis of (its) decision to the public, the state of Louisiana demands the opportunity to review this information in its entirety,” the letter reads.

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