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Army, EPA silent as M6 disposal technologies discussed

by Minden Press-Herald

Discussion began Wednesday on selecting an alternative method to the open tray burn, but the call didn’t go without reservations from some as the U.S. Army and the EPA stayed silent throughout most of the call.

A representative for the U.S. Army introduced herself as Christina Curley, communications specialist for the Army. After her introduction, Col. Sam Mims (Ret.), a 30-year veteran of the same Armed Forces branch and a dialogue committee member, expressed his disappointment in their silence.

“It’s just disturbing to me that the Army has refused to come to the table and participate in this process,” he said, emphasizing the remark wasn’t directed at Curley. “As I said, this has nothing to do with you, but it just bothers me the institution I spent 30 years with is not willing to come to the table and deal directly in this dialogue process.”

True to what he said, Curley stayed silent throughout most of the call, only answering a few questions or saying she would take it to their experts with the Department of the Army in Washington.

As the conference call continued, technical work group members moved fairly quickly through the agenda talking about the various ways to dispose of the M6.

A chart was provided with information from both the EPA and comments from the Army. On some methods, such as several of the combustion and incinerator methods, the Army’s remarks showed pros and cons to each. The biggest concern on all the methods is the volume of material that must be destroyed.

Dr. Slawomir Lomnicki, a combustion and munitions expert with the LSU Superfund Research Center and Department of Environmental Services, says all the detonation chambers are not suitable for the destruction of the M6.

“This is because of much lower explosive properties of propellants compared to TNT (an energetic in explosives),” he said. “They are designed for much higher explosive materials, like TNT. In general, when I looked over all these technologies, it struck me that using the Kiln incinerator might be the best way to deal with these materials, under the conditions that this Kiln incinerator would be possible to set up on the site in some reasonable time manner, properly equipped with post-combustion treatment.”

Doug Sarno, facilitator, says the incinerator is one of the processes that has the capacity to handle larger batches than others. But the drawback, Lomnicki says, is the fact that detonation chambers’ capacity to destroy materials by pounds per load is very low.

“They are used to treat much smaller amounts of material with much bigger explosive properties,” he said.

Each one discussed came down to volume, capacity and availability and other limitations.

As discussion continued, the Army and the EPA still remained silent. Frances Kelley, with Louisiana Progress Action and dialogue committee member, called them on it, saying the ones who should be offering the expertise are those on the panel, not the facilitator – stressing that she wasn’t chastising Sarno’s approach to handling the meeting, only that it was a “process concern.”

“I am deeply uncomfortable with the way this call has gone today,” she said, “and I feel like we need to have the committee members be the ones discussing more of the technical aspects of the different technologies, and we need to be backing that up with research and citations. And I understand that it’s just a rough draft, but I feel like these conversations are going to shape our future conversations, and we have to be doing this the right way.

“I also want to comment that this has never been done before,” she continued. “There’s never been, as far as I know, a pile of hazardous waste that has to be disposed of as quickly as this one. We have to find a solution here. We have to be creative, and we have to find something that will work, and not just rule out all these things because they haven’t dealt with bulk M6 propellant in this particular way in the past.”

Hydrolysis and water immersion took up much of the conference, with members talking about the pros and cons of each. Dr. Brian Salvatore, a chemistry professor at LSU in Shreveport, says he feels these processes are the best.

“These hydrolysis units have great potential to deal with these,” he said of the M6.

After talking about some of the science behind it, he says he talked to one of the developers of the process at Archtech who told him they could use asphalt mixers and render the M6 non-explosive on site.

The next meeting will be Friday, from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. with the full dialogue committee. The phone number for the public to call and listen in is 1-866-900-8984, with conference ID 92058899. The public can also listen to the conference calls afterward by following the link on

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