Citizens react to propellant disposal process

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Doyline resident Rebecca Shelley Sherrard, an employee with Kilpatrick/Rose-Neath, points at Rep. Gene Reynolds, saying she has talked with local public officials often and knows all their names. Bruce Franklin/Press-Herald
Doyline resident Rebecca Shelley Sherrard, an employee with Kilpatrick/Rose-Neath, points at Rep. Gene Reynolds, saying she has talked with local public officials often and knows all their names. Bruce Franklin/Press-Herald

Following a town hall meeting at the Minden Civic Center Thursday evening, several in the audience said they didn’t feel they got the answers they sought regarding the cleanup of approximately 15 million pounds of M6 propellant at Camp Minden.

“I’m just glad we are moving forward,” said one woman from Doyline who asked not to be named. “I think we were a little bit chastised for our questions. We have plenty of questions and we’re going to ask them.”

Several officials from all sides of the issue were on hand during the town hall meeting to answer concerns citizens had regarding the open pit burning method chosen to dispose of the improperly stored demilitarized explosives discovered at the site of the now defunct Explo Systems. It was apparent to some residents that questions were not being answered as audience members repeatedly asked questions regarding emissions, contamination ramifications and health concerns.

While officials could not answer some questions – either because of criminal proceedings in process or because talks had not reached a certain point – they were able to assure folks their job was to ensure everything possible would be done to protect the citizenry and the environment.
“I want the mess out of there as safely and quickly as possible,” the Doyline resident said.

One man, who also asked not to be named, said he felt like he was getting the runaround.

“‘We’ll let you know next time, we’ll let you know next time,’” he said quoting officials. “And they want to know if we’re on board with them. Well, no, we’re not.”

Both live within roughly two miles of the epicenter of the explosion, and were also concerned about the school there.

Rebecca Shelley Sherrard is a lifelong resident of Doyline, and she said she felt her questions were answered in the end.

“I do agree this is a step by step (process), but I want them to understand that we don’t want anybody to sugarcoat anything,” Sherrard said. “We want to know up front, and we deserve to know up front and they should want us to know up front before steps are made. As long as we have that, we will not have fears; we will control fears and work with them for a solution. Because there has to be a solution.”

District 9 Rep. Henry Burns, retired military, said there’s always that “unpredictable,” but the open pit burn should be a very safe process.

“Remember this, explosives and propellants are chemically designed to do a job – lift, push, shove, break or shatter – and all this propellant burns,” he said. “The reason you worry is when it’s been laid out, it rains on it and gets a little other material on it, then it crystallizes (and) becomes a little less stable than it was when it was manufactured.”

Sherrard said she was glad to hear Maj. Gen. Glenn Curtis say no more demilitarization companies would be housed at Camp Minden, if it is within his power.

“I was glad to hear him say (that), because we need businesses out there,” she said.

Burns went on to explain that at the time, the U.S. Army had a market for these explosives, so the Army, in good faith, was sending these explosives to Explo and other companies like it. The problem came in when the market went away and they just kept taking it.

Many of those in attendance were residents of the Village of Doyline.

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