Frustrations rise as M6 deadline looms

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Frustration among technical subcommittee members is rising as the deadline for solicitations for the M6 propellant removal looms.

The technical subcommittee of the Camp Minden Dialogue Committee met via conference call Monday, and several members of the group expressed growing unease at choosing a method based on limited information. Dialogue member Dr. Bob Flournoy says it’s premature to make a decision of this magnitude without having all the science and questions answered.

“We spent a great deal of time on this, this weekend, and one of the things that strikes home with me, as a scientific process, we have to select something that we feel is right,” he said. “Whatever method is selected, we want truly to be based on the safest method and what will get it done the quickest.”

Scientist Wilma Subra, dialogue committee member, says time is of the essence because the deadline solicitation is March 18. The idea of the whole dialogue committee is to recommend a safer alternative to the selected method of open tray burn of millions of pounds of M6 propellant at Camp Minden.

“We may not have all the information even after we get solicitations,” she said. “How do we make a decision before the March 18 deadline?”

The technical subcommittee began going through the technologies, screening for which ones would work and which ones would not.
As they began going through them, several realized they weren’t getting all the answers to their questions. Facilitator Doug Sarno says questions by committee members and by the EPA were submitted to vendors, but they had not received answers from all of them. A deadline for Tuesday has been set.

Vendors gave presentations last week on 13 different technologies over a period of two days worth of conference calls.

Discussion then moved to the deadline when Frances Kelley, with Louisiana Progress Action, seemed to exhibit extreme displeasure with the turn the call took and appeared to demand answers from the U.S. Army.

“When we asked for this dialogue committee in the beginning, the goal was so that we could examine all of the science and choose a safe disposal option,” she said. “And what we have promised our community is that we will come out of this process able to tell them the safest way to get rid of the M6 so they can get behind that and fight to protect their community. I do not feel, right now, that we have adequate information to make that decision.

“It’s incredibly frustrating to me that we’ve been working on this a month and we do not have information from the agencies, specifically about these technologies, and that’s unacceptable,” she continued. “Our team spent 10 hours this weekend trying to figure some of this stuff out. We cannot set ourselves up for failure. We have got to come up with a safe solution, and we cannot get there without the science.”

She continued to ask questions, specifically to Kristina Curley with the U.S. Army, to have someone who went through the ACWA process tell the committee about super critical water oxidation, or SCWO. Curley said any questions would have to go through the EPA. Kelley then asked EPA representative Sam Coleman to ask her to have an ACWA representative available by Tuesday. He did, and Curley said she would.

The technical subcommittee will meet Tuesday from 7 until 9 p.m. at the Minden Community House. The entire dialogue committee will come face-to-face Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the same place.

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