M6 propellant to be removed by open burn

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Carl Edlund, director of the Superfund division of the Environmental Protection Agency, addresses questions at the public meeting concerning clean up at Camp Minden. Bruce Franklin/Press-Herald Illustration

Approximately 15 million pounds of potentially explosive M6 propellant located at Camp Minden will be destroyed using an open control burning process rather than enclosed incineration, and it will take at least one year to completely dispose of the material.

Carl Edlund, director of the EPA’s Region 6 Superfund Division, delivered that message to nearly 150 Webster Parish residents during a town hall meeting Thursday at the Minden Civic Center. The crowd came to hear what had been billed as a discussion on the removal of the propellant and possible methods under consideration.

Instead, Edlund said the EPA made the decision to go with the open control burn, using the agency’s Superfund Emergency Response Authority. The possible growing instability of the propellant raised enough concern to consider the situation critical, he explained.

“We’ve been told by the Army explosive safety board that the material, the M6 at Camp Minden, could begin to degrade more rapidly in as little as a year from now,” Edlund told the audience. “It would be subject to explosion. That’s why we’re talking about resolving the problem quickly.”

He said the Louisiana military department will put the clean-up project out for bid and will select the contractor, but it’s the U.S. Army that will foot the bill. Requests for proposals will soon be completed and the bid process will then get into full swing, Edlund said.

“The EPA and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will be responsible for safe and environmentally sound removal of the M6,” Edlund said. “We will be working together to be sure that happens, and we will have more information on this as more meetings develop.”

Edlund said the open burn process was chosen because the propellant at Camp Minden needs to be destroyed as quickly and safely as possible. The method, which features burning the M6 in prepared trays containing a shallow layer of the material, has been used in other cleanups.

“We chose this because it is a standard procedure for dealing with off-spec issues across the country. We have experience with it and it can be done safely,” he said. “We will have a compilation of all documents that we use to make this decision available in about a week.”

A Doyline resident wanted to know if emissions would be greater from the open burn method rather than an enclosed process such as an incinerator.

“You’ll get some emissions from any process used, and we’re going to make sure those are not harmful for the environment or for people. That’s our job,” Edlund said.

He again stressed the agency made the determination using its emergency response authority.

“We needed a response to make the material disappear as quickly as possible and as safely as possible,” Edlund said. “Considering the alternatives, this approach would do that. We will have oversight to be sure no one gets bad air.”

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