U.S. Sen. David Vitter, in a stop at Camp Minden Tuesday, says after talking with the powers that be, everyone is working toward beginning the disposal of the nearly 7,000 tons of M6 propellant stored at the military installation.
Vitter toured Camp Minden to see where the M6 is now stored and says it’s important to begin disposal as soon as possible.
“I think we’re in the process of moving forward with the disposal,” he said during a short interview before beginning the tour, “and not waiting on that last funding piece the EPA was demanding for its oversight. We’re in the midst of that, but I’m very hopeful that we’re getting past that.”
Vitter says the goal is to begin disposal of the M6 while still working out the details of the additional $8 million the EPA was asking for to pay for administrative oversight.
“Time is an issue here,” Vitter said. “We can’t just debate this for the next five years. We need to move on with it and we’ll work out those final details as we do.”
Maj. Gen. Glenn Curtis says no one is sure what the administrative oversight is, but that’s something they are discussing at this time.
“They told us about this almost two weeks ago when we were getting into the final negotiations on the $28 million to come out of the federal judgment fund,” Curtis said. “The Army, the Department of Justice, (Department of Environmental Quality), and the National Guard were saying ok, we think we’re ready to get this thing started. Then they came out with this administrative oversight.”
He says the first dollar amount put out was $10 million, but they got them to come down to the $8 million.
Vitter and Curtis both say they don’t know what the administrative oversight is or any details. The EPA says the $8 million is for independent monitoring and review.
“Our goal here is to get on with the cleanup because time is a factor,” Vitter said, “and figure out those details later. Certainly, my approach would be we need something more specific than some vague term ‘administrative oversight.’ To even talk about $8 million is a significant amount of money.”
Last week the EPA went on the defensive when U.S. Congressman John Fleming and Vitter came out with strong words regarding the EPA’s supposed holdup with the money to fund the cleanup.
The EPA’s initial statement in response appeared to be vague, but when asked by the Press-Herald specifically about the $8 million, the following was their response:
“We have provided an estimate of the cost for independent monitoring and review for the project as requested and believe it should be included in the overall project cost that is being negotiated,” said David Gray, external affairs for EPA Region 6.
Regional administrator Ron Curry issued the following statement:
“As promised, EPA is working every day to remove barriers to dispose of abandoned M6 and CBI at Camp Minden,” he said. “Throughout the process of finding an alternative method, EPA has delivered on that promise time after time. Our commitment hasn’t changed and our work to help the state ensure the disposal is protective is unwavering.
“We fully support the dialogue attributes and believe independent monitoring and review are important to a successful program,” he continued. “For the benefit of people who make their homes or businesses in the area, we continue to encourage the Army (to) fund the state’s request so they can award the contract.”
The EPA has sponsored a dialogue committee, which worked feverishly for a month to recommend an alternative method of disposal other than the open tray burn. The EPA has followed up with sponsorship of a Citizens Advisory Group, which will oversee the project from beginning to end and keep the public informed of activities and any issues that might arise during the cleanup process.
A public meeting has been set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 28, at First Baptist Church in Doyline.