Officials see jobs if burn chamber stays

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Should it stay or should it go?

That’s the question emerging as to the fate of the contained burn chamber at Camp Minden.

Minden Mayor Tommy Davis said he is in favor of keeping the burn chamber, which is currently destroying the millions of pounds of M6, to help promote economic development.

“We can continue to keep jobs out there and take advantage of the technology that has been developed to deal with these types of situations,” he said, adding he is speaking personally, and the City of Minden has not taken an official position on burn chamber’s future. “When we have the best technology that has been developed, why would you want to dismantle or move it elsewhere?”

Supporters of keeping the one-of-a-kind chamber, and accompanying pollution abatement system, hope to lure other munitions-related companies to the parish and create needed jobs for the area.

“The land not being used by the military can only be used for like minded businesses, which would be other munitions from my understanding,” he said. “Why would we want to take those jobs somewhere else?”

Davis was referencing a December 2004 Transfer Agreement between the U.S. Army and State of Louisiana, which restricts land use for “like use explosive operations.”

Should Explosive Service International, the company tasked with the disposal, be allowed to keep the burn chamber at Camp Minden, the number of jobs associated with the burn chamber could potentially triple.

“It is our intention, as part of buying into what is now known as ESI, to purchase a rotary kiln and compatible air abatement equipment to demil/dispose of munitions that are not suitable for disposal in the existing burn chamber,” John Madden, co-owner of Madden Contracting told jurors at Tuesday’s Webster Parish Police Jury meeting. “Should the existing burn chamber be allowed to remain and we buy into the venture, we would locate the proposed rotary kiln on the Webster Parish side of Camp Minden for tax purposes.”

Madden, who would own 40 percent of the venture, said the expansion would increase the number of jobs from 35 to 75 to 100.

Despite the economic development potential, opponents of keeping the burn chamber say they fear the area could become a toxic dump, become a health hazard and cause the population to dwindle.

“I think we have the capacity to be more creative than to think we have to settle for 70 or so jobs in
military/industrial waste management,” Chris Broussard said. “I can’t see future job growth or community growth for a parish that is willing to accept national waste management as their emerging industry. I think if it becomes that, people will leave.”

As of Friday morning, 12,947,310 pounds of M6 had been destroyed. The project is currently 90 percent complete and expected to be finished in April.

By contract, ESI is supposed to tear down the burn chamber and take it away once the M6 job is completed. Whether it will be allowed to stay will be up to state officials.

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