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Army: M6 continues to be increasing danger to public

by Minden Press-Herald

CAMP MINDEN — A “catastrophic auto-ignition” is what the Army says in a report could happen to the rapidly decomposing M6 propellant that is currently stored in unsealed containers at Camp Minden.

The report is the result of their visit March 9-11 when the Camp Minden dialogue committee was wrapping up its meetings to make a recommendation for alternative technologies to dispose of the propellant other than the open tray burn.

In the Technical Assistance Visit, or TAV report, the Army says the continued deterioration of the propellant and the clean burning igniters are an increasing concern.

“The Army team observed ongoing accelerated decomposition of clean burning igniters and M6, and an increasing risk of catastrophic auto-ignition for all CBI and M6 stored in unsealed containers,” David Gray, with EPA Region 6, said in a statement. “They also observed a wet nitrocellulose container which requires an emergency destruction.”

However, throughout the 27-page report, which includes the Army’s findings, declassified emails and photographs, it does not say how these materials should be destroyed.

In a telephone interview with Col. Peter Schneider, with the Louisiana National Guard, says General Dynamics, a company at Camp Minden, has been taking care of any materials that are considered an immediate threat as has been done since the explosion in 2012.

The EPA published its action memo last week, asking the Army to amend its Administrative Order on Consent to consider alternatives to the open tray burn method of disposal for approximately 16 million pounds of M6. The memo gave background information that revealed materials were open burned when they became an immediate threat to the public.

The report lists several magazines, or bunkers, Army and EPA officials looked at during their visit, disclosing their observations of each one. The one of most concern was Magazine 2419, which is the one reported with heavy condensation inside. The report reveals the front vent of the magazine was open with the rear vent “rusted closed, and support chain and fusible link missing.”

Officials also noted a wet nitrocellulose container which requires an emergency destruction, Gray says,

“EPA is working closely with LMD to address the recommendations by Department of Army to secure the material stored in magazines and reduce exposure to moisture,” Gray said. “EPA has also directed the immediate offsite disposal of the nitrocellulose container. EPA and LMD will closely monitor on-site conditions and request additional technical assistance from the Department of Amy as needed.”

In questions posed by the EPA, the Army says the amount of time remaining before the CBI auto-ignites is uncertain. The Army goes on to say their policy is to destroy material within 60 days after it is condemned, usually by open tray burn.

“Given the uncertainty of the state of deterioration of CBI and M6 at Camp Minden, EPA should consider conducting immediate disposal operations on a continuous basis during daylight hours of those propellant materials contained in compromised packaging that has gotten wet or been in high humidity or wet magazines,” according to the report.

In the meantime, the Army recommends the following:

– Blocking the magazine doors open and retrofitting porous or “blow out” door. This would allow significant venting of the magazine in an auto-ignition event.

– Increasing visual storage monitoring of each storage location to once per week.

– Installing thermometers at each location and monitor it for any change in temperature away from the average ambient temperature in all locations.

Other recommendations are made in the event the material auto-ignites as well as recommendations to reduce the chance of auto-ignition. The recommendations also include notification to the public and first responder agencies in preparation for “an event.”

The Army, in the report, also debunks the August 2015 “auto-ignition” date.

“A definitive predictive date for an auto-ignition event would have no validity and should not be used as a planning tool,” officials said in the report. “EPA should consider giving priority for the destruction of material that has compromised packaging or storage conditions.”

A technical committee is currently in Baton Rouge beginning the task of reviewing the 10 bids submitted Wednesday, March 18. Two dialogue committee members, Wilma Subra and Dr. Slowamir Lomnicki, are on that review committee.

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