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Concern grows over method to dispose of M6 propellant

by Associated Press

Members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation are asking the Environmental Protection Agency for assurances that the open burn method for artillery propellant planned at Camp Minden is safe.

Republican Rep. John Fleming tells The News-Star that he and Republican Rep. Ralph Abraham and GOP Sen. David Vitter sent letters to the EPA asking for information about the burn method.

“We need to see the science behind it, especially now,” said Fleming. “We have experts like (LSU-Shreveport chemistry Professor Brian A. Salvatore) who have described in detail the potential dangers, so we as a delegation have agreed to escalate our concerns to a higher level.”

Officials have said 15 million pounds of M6 propellant is stored at Minden.

The M6 was abandoned on site by Explo Systems Inc. after it went bankrupt in 2013. An explosion in October 2012 in one of Explo’s leased bunkers rattled homes, shattered windows 4 miles away in Minden and created a 7,000-foot mushroom cloud.

M6 is used as an explosive propellant for launching artillery shells.

A subsequent Louisiana State Police investigation led to the discovery of the millions of pounds of propellant now stored in 98 bunkers scattered at Camp Minden.

The EPA in August ordered the Army, which sold the M6 to Explo for demilitarization, to get rid of the material, and an agreement was signed last fall with the Louisiana Military Department.

No firm date has been set for the burning to begin other than the target timeframe of the first quarter of this year. Requests for proposals have been issued to enlist applications from contractors interested in carrying out the disposal. Officials estimate nearly 80,000 pounds of M6 would be burned daily in steel trays.

“Thousands of citizens are gravely concerned about the risks of the open burn. It is irresponsible of the EPA to push it through without local input when safe and efficient alternative disposal methods exist,” Frances Kelley, with the citizen-led Louisiana Progress Action, said in a news release Thursday.

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