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Letter: The future of Webster Parish, Camp Minden and the Burn Chamber

by Minden Press-Herald

Dear Editor:

Money and political pressures can have positive and negative consequences. Many times the general public is not privy to the deals made behind closed doors.

We have a 15,000 acre encampment that has defined our community. For years we considered Camp Minden an asset until it was discovered that the largest stockpile of military waste was dumped in our backyard. Under the assumption that the Army and the National Guard were tending to business and taking care of us, we woke up to a problem with catastrophic consequences. The Army and the National Guard made an unprecedented move to allow a community of concerned citizens to develop their own plan for disposal. This resulted in the development and acquisition of this country’s most efficient disposal unit. The action taken by the US Army not only restored community trust but it also demonstrated that when government and ordinary citizens work together, the results are revolutionary.

ESI won the contract to dispose of millions of pounds of M6. They were awarded the contract that came with specific instructions for disposal. And once the clean up is complete, the contract called for the dismantling of the burn chamber paid for with tax payers dollars. Their contract was intentionally not a permanent one and the employees were also intentionally not to be permanent. The idea of keeping this unit in place for future employment was not part of the plan.

However, it is now part of ESI’s plan.

I can understand the management of ESI wanting to keep this extraordinary unit in place for future disposal of other hazardous waste. They could make more money. And they could rid our nation of other hazardous waste in a more efficient and safe manner. Is that what we want? It certainly isn’t what the concerned citizens wanted who were instrumental in the research and development of a plan for disposal. Their mission was clear: Get rid of this nation’s largest stockpile of M6 as efficiently and as safe as possible, as soon as possible. And when the job is done, dismantle the unit and remove it to ensure that this never happens again. Plain and simple.

Now we have an opportunity to honor the original contract or open the gates to Camp Minden for more possible military waste and/or industrial waste. The incentive—Jobs!

So, here we are in the middle of another fight. Do we allow money and political pressures to over ride the contract? Are we ready to sell off the health and well being of our children for more jobs?

The reality of this situation is that Camp Minden is there for a reason. The 15,000 acre encampment has served the Army and while ownership was turned over to the State, access and oversights still belong to the Army and the National Guard. The future of Camp Minden as a military storage area depends on our national security needs. Those ninety something bunkers out there meant for military storage are in short order nationally. So, the Army could see a future need for more storage in the future. So, do we accept our destiny as a partner with Camp Minden and all that It comes with, good or bad? If so, we need to know what that looks like. We have certainly benefited financially for years ? Unfortunately, we traded our health and environment for it. If this is our destiny and we have no choice, let us know so that we can decide if these are the conditions we are willing to accept.

Transparency and accountability is vital to any community that wants to enhance or control their growth and their environment while securing the future for their children. If an idea has merit, it has the potential to strengthen a community through jobs, responsible economic growth and the potential to improve our quality of life.

As an advocate for children and as one of the original core members of the Concerned Citizens Group that fought to expose and dispose of the M6, I can not in good conscience support any effort to trade off our future well being and quality of life for a few more jobs. I cannot support the idea of developing an industrial complex at Camp Minden or near Camp Minden for the purpose of receiving more trash only to become the nation’s dumping ground.

I appreciate any and all efforts to try to bring more economic development opportunities to our area but I personally do not consider this an economic driver. Money and political pressures can have positive and negative consequences. It’s up to the people to decide their own fate but they have to speak up.

What do you want?

Most Sincerely,
Chris Broussard,
Concerned Citizen

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