Officials with Explosive Service International gave a good report to the Webster Parish Police Jury meeting Tuesday saying they’ve destroyed roughly 4 million pounds of the improperly stored M6 propellant at Camp Minden, all ahead of schedule.

Since operations began, they have done so without any adverse emissions. Dean Schellhase, project manager for ESI, says companies all over the country are now looking at the contained burn system as an alternative for open burning of munitions.

“It was a Herculean effort,” he said. “We took a bad situation and turned it into the pinnacle or put it on a pedestal in the world right now. The resistance from the community, not only to include the Chamber of Commerce rallying D.C., the citizens voicing their concerns about the direction of open burn to the elected officials who got involved to move this towards an alternative technology.”

He said they became operational within eight months due to the time-sensitive nature of the instability of the propellant. Normally, to build a site such as this one, it takes two to three years to design and construct, he said.

Schellhase gave a brief presentation of where they stand, how they got here and where they are going.

He says the site is operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The only thing that stops destruction is if lightning is within five miles of the contained burn system. Then, the whole operation shuts down until it passes.

John Jackins Jr., an ESI employee, told jurors a little bit about how he became an employee, saying he worked in the chemical and explosives transportation industry for 11 years prior to coming to work for ESI. He says he was away from home much of the time, and when he checked out of his hotel the day he took the job, he’d been away from home 385 days.

“When I go home and lay my head down, I can assure you that the things we tell you we’re doing to the letter,” he said. “I’ve never worked for a company that is so aware of what’s going on around them and follow instructions and procedures to a ‘T’, and then worry about their employees and their families.”

ESI Vice President Jason Poe says they have always tried to remain transparent.

“We’ve tried to be as transparent as we could, we want to be open with everybody,” Poe said. “There’s no secrets out at Camp Minden, and we want everybody to know what we’re doing out there. We want everybody to know that everything we’ve promised we’ve fulfilled.”

He said when they were awarded the contract at Camp Minden, their goal was to hire as many local employees and contractors as they could. To date, 35 of the 39 employees they have are local, Louisiana people. Four of those employees were hired out-of-state strictly for their technical expertise, Schellhase said.

In other news, the jury heard from Lane Davison with the Germantown Water System, who told the jury the board decided to keep its status under the Public Service Commission. He thanked the jury for working with him on trying to get out from under the PSC.

“A lot of these systems wanted to get out from under the PSC,” Davison said. “Now that the legislature has seen that, they’ll be able to regulate themselves. I just thank you for your consideration for letting us come under the parish, and I thank Randy Thomas and Ronda Carnahan for going above and beyond. We appreciate you very much.”

The jury also approved:

  • a cooperative endeavor agreement with MAR-C Industries using district 8 recreational funding to purchase a shredder for $325.
  • Board appointments: Don Sayers to another two-year term to the Webster Parish Fire Protection District #4 in Dubberly, and Jeff Lee to the South Webster Industrial District Board, effective Jan. 1, 2017, to replace Henry Bridges, whose term expires Dec. 31.

Although the reappointment of Yolanda Palmer in for WPFD #8 in Cotton Valley was on the agenda, the jury agreed to push the item back another month until the district could meet. The WPFD #8 meeting will be Tuesday, Aug. 16.