Invitations have been sent to various local citizens, elected officials, scientists and others to participate in a dialogue committee tasked with finding a safe alternative disposal method for nearly 19 million pounds of M6 propellant at Camp Minden.
Frances Kelley, with Louisiana Progress Action, said the conference call went well, and the invitations were sent out Thursday. The next meeting with a named committee is expected to take place Thursday, Feb. 12 in Webster Parish to get started on finding the alternative method of disposal.
“There is a list of names of people who have been invited, but the list is not final,” she said. “Some of them are elected officials, and they will either come in person or designate someone from their office.”
She said the call was open and honest. Citizens from Doyline, Webster Parish and surrounding parishes have been invited to sit on the committee, as well as local, state and federal officials and agencies and scientists.
“People were very honest on the conference call,” she says. “There’s still a lot of work ahead. And the committee is not a guarantee that we’ll find a solution. The committee will recommend an alternate remedy, but the state, the EPA and the Army will have to sign off on doing an alternate, safer disposal method.”
David Gray, with EPA’s Region 6 office, said he was pleased with the way the call went. The conference call included Gray, Kelley, Dr. Brian Salvatore, Ron Curry, Sam Coleman and Thomas Ruiz of EPA Region 6.
“I think we had a very productive planning meeting today with Rep (Gene) Reynolds, Dr. (Brian) Salvatore, Frances Kelley and others to talk about creating a public dialogue on alternatives at Camp Minden,” he said. “Planning activities for the public engagement isn’t complete. But – folks have shared a list of volunteers to participate and will reach out to them shortly. It’s a big time commitment.”
A timeline has been tentatively set for meetings to take place between next Thursday and March 2. At that time, Wilma Subra, a scientist who has said she would sit on the committee, said at a public meeting Monday a recommendation should be decided upon by early March.
Two public meetings will be tentatively set for March 9 and 10, with the recommendation to be submitted to the EPA by March 11. The 90-day suspension of the contract bids will expire April 15.
In October 2012, an explosion rocked southern Webster Parish when the M6 blew, sending a reported 7,000-foot plume of smoke into the air. It took a tractor-trailer with it, Subra said.
Following the explosion, an investigation led to the discovery of millions of pounds of improperly stored M6 propellant. It also led to the arrest of several officials with Explo Systems Inc., the company accused of improperly storing the munitions. It has since gone bankrupt.
Officials contend that while the propellant has been properly stored in 97 bunkers across Camp Minden, it grows more unstable by the day. The Army has been tasked with paying for the cleanup, and the open tray burn is the method of their choice and what is expected to be bid on.
However, with the backlash of the community due to the environmental and health threats caused from the burn, a dialogue committee is being seated to discuss an alternative method that is safe for the environment and the people who live around Camp Minden and surrounding areas.
“It’s hopeful (that a safer method will be accepted), but there’s still a lot of work ahead,” Kelley said. “Nothing is a done deal yet.”