Burn chamber opponents speak out at police jury meeting

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The room was packed to capacity, filled with opponents of the continued stay of the contained burn chamber at Camp Minden, at Monday’s Webster Parish Police Jury meeting.

Several community members spoke at the meeting, explaining why they picked up the torch to once again to be heard.

During February’s meeting, John Madden spoke to the jury rolling out a plan to join Explosive Service International in keeping the burn chamber and create a business partnership. On Monday, opponents explained their side of the issue. Sam Mims, a dialogue committee member and current Citizens Advisory Group member, talked about the issue, saying it is the citizens who forced the government to stop the open burn and allow them to present an alternative disposal technology.

“We were representing the citizens, and we did what they asked us to do,” he said. “They asked us to not open burn, get the M6 disposed of and then to be sure that Camp Minden was restored to the way it was before they did it. We’re not against people having jobs, but we knew when we did this that they were supposed to be temporary. We asked that it be temporary, because that’s what the people wanted.”

Frances Kelley, with Louisiana Progress Action, said coming out of the dialogue committee, they knew there was more than 500 tons of waste munitions around the country that would need to be disposed of over the next 10 years.

“We knew that whatever technology was chosen, there would be this temptation for it to remain permanent, and that this would be a magnet for all of this waste from all over the country,” she said. “We specifically put this provision in the criteria that everybody agreed to, and no one said, ‘Why don’t we become this permanent disposal site, why don’t we just become this dumping ground?’ No one said that. Everyone agreed that this is what we’re going to do. It’s criteria No. 6, leave nothing behind.”

Dr. Brian Salvatore, a chemistry professor at LSU Shreveport, gave a small presentation, saying there’s no way for the community to fully know the total emissions per day coming from the pollution abatement system.

“It’s like going to the zoo and saying there’s animals,” he said.

Others spoke out as well, asking the jury not to rescind the resolution passed in December stating their stance against the contained burn chamber staying.

The jury gave no indication one way or another as to whether they would reconsider withdrawing the resolution or letting it remain.

Last year, representatives with ESI began discussing the possibility of making the contained burn chamber a permanent site at Camp Minden, touting its success at destroying the M6 improperly stored by the now defunct Explo Systems, Inc. One of the driving factors they say is the nearly 100 jobs they could create as well as being the largest and cleanest contained burn chamber in the world.

In other police jury news, they approved:

The abandonment of 306 feet at the end of Russell Road, 369-foot right-of-way at Red Vaughn Road and the abandonment of Deacon Road

Group health insurance renewal with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana for May 1

A public meeting April 4 to discuss and take action on the adoption of a resolution calling for an election for Road District B ad valorem tax renewal

The use of recreational funding for $650 to help repair a fence at City Park in Springhill, the cost for justice of the peace and constable training for Marsha Toland and April Brewster

The reappointment of John Stanley as president of Webster Parish Fire Protection District 9 for a two-year term and Jesse Lee as vice president for a two-year term

and the budgets for LIHEAP and CSBG for the Office of Community Services.

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