NEW ORLEANS — About a half-hour before the deadline to submit bids on destroying 7,500 tons of M6 artillery propellant at Camp Minden, the Environmental Protection Agency made it official: Louisiana may consider methods other than open burning.
“The amendment clears the way for the Louisiana Military Department to review quotes for alternative methods and select a company to dispose of the M6,” EPA Regional Administrator Ron Curry said.
Col. Pete Schneider, spokesman for the Louisiana National Guard, said he did not know how many companies had bid by the Wednesday evening deadline. He said he doesn’t think any will be for open burning.
“We want to get rid of this stuff. But we want to do it safely,” he said.
Area residents were upset last year when the EPA said burning the propellant in shallow trays was the only method that could be used quickly enough to get rid of the propellant before deterioration made it dangerously explosive. Open burning could have long-term impact to health and the environment, they said.
Their protests, along with testimony from experts, prompted agency officials to give Louisiana 90 days to look at alternatives.
A “dialogue committee,” which the EPA joined, heard presentations from 10 companies and came up with six proposals that it preferred, said state Rep. Gene Reynolds, D-Minden.
“Every one of them has some issues. But the issues are far less than open burn. Open burns are old, old technology,” he said.
Authorities say there are 15 million pounds of M6 propellant at Camp Minden. It was abandoned on site by Explo Systems Inc. after the company 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.
Reynolds said he is working on a bill to outlaw open burning of M6.
“As a nation, not a state, this is something we need to address,” he said. “M6 is an old propellant they don’t use any more. And there’s tons and tons and tons of the stuff around the country.”