U.S. Army expected to join M6 dialogue committee table

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As the Camp Minden dialogue committee’s technical work group met again to hash out more details on how to choose a method and company to dispose of millions of pounds of M6 propellant, some good news came their way.

Dialogue committee facilitator Doug Sarno announced as of Monday morning, the U.S. Army is willing to sit at the table and offer its expertise. Sarno said he hopes to have them on the next conference call Wednesday.

“It was as early as today that the Army is on board,” he said. “That’s good news that the Army is now engaged with us, that they will be on the call Wednesday and they certainly will be helping out preparing these materials, providing information and helping us move forward.”

However, there is still some concern about the trustworthiness of their expertise. Dr. Brian Salvatore, a chemistry professor and dialogue committee member, said he was concerned about the leeway being given to the Army now that they have agreed to come to the table. He also said they would not be bluffed.

“It sounds like we’re going to give them a lot of leeway in getting up to speed here,” he said. “I understand that they’re going to be somewhat in the dark, because they willingly did not take part in these discussions. However, when they come into these meetings, they are regarded as the experts. We’re not going to give them days and weeks to say, ‘Well, we’re just gathering information.’ They’re expected to come to these meetings with experts, with the know-how…The Army isn’t going to come in as an interested observer. They’re going to come in as an active participant.”

Frances Kelley, with Louisiana Progress Action and dialogue committee member, also asked if an ACWA member would be among those from the Army at the table. The Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives assessment is the process used by the Department of Defense Explosives Safety Board to certify alternative technologies to dispose of chemical weapons and other stockpiled munitions in the 80s.

In answer, Sam Coleman, representing the EPA on the dialogue committee, said the Army will be providing experts who have or are working on this specific project at Camp Minden.

“I would like to still ask that we have one of the ACWA program managers be asked to be available,” Kelley said. “I am concerned that these technical experts from the EPA think of the experts on open burn, open detonation, on incineration, and it just seems like it would be fair that we would have experts on the advanced treatment technologies providing advice and the expertise to describe those technologies and help us have the information to evaluate this technology.”

Kelley said she would keep pushing on this as the experts are not coming from the community, but rather the EPA and the Army. The community is at a disadvantage because of this, she says.

“I’m going to keep pushing on this so that we are comfortable with these experts to talk about the technologies we are interested in learning about,” she said. “I don’t mean to be difficult, but I will keep asking the difficult questions.”
Sarno says since they just received word that morning that they’d be willing to join the committee, he has no other details to offer at this time.

The next hour and a half was spent talking about a myriad of issues related to moving forward in finding an alternative method, including key considerations for the analysis and the focus of the dialogue committee.

The next meeting will be from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 25. The technical work group will gather again to continue their discussions before meeting again with the full dialogue committee on Friday via conference call.

For the Wednesday meeting, the public can dial in at 1-866-900-8984, conference ID 92058188. On Friday, the conference ID number will be 92058899.

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