Fifteen million pounds of deteriorating explosives are improperly stored at Camp Minden in northwest Louisiana. The company charged with disposing of them has gone bankrupt. The U.S. Army agreed to destroy the M6 propellant via open tray burning. Area residents said no.
Last week, lawmakers on the House Appropriations committee asked Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Peggy Hatch for an update.
“The decision was made to allow other options,” Hatch said. “That’s kind of where we are.”
Ruston Rep. Rob Shadoin was concerned about the costs of alternative disposal methods.
“Do we know what impact that’s going to have on our budget—our state budget?” he asked.
Assistant DEQ Secretary Chance McNeely responded, “It’s unclear at this point whether all parties to the AOC…”
“The who?” Shadoin interrupted.
“The agreement—the AOC—so the parties are the Guard, EPA, DEQ and the Army—are willing to modify the agreement,” McNeely explained.
DEQ, the EPA and the Louisiana National Guard have agreed to change the disposal method. The Army has not responded at all.
“So we really don’t know how much this is going to cost us—depending on what disposal method we use?” Shadoin pressed.
“That is one of the purposes of the RFQ that we’re currently pursuing,” McNeely replied.
An “RFQ” is a “request for quotes”—basically an estimate of what closed incineration of the explosives might cost. DEQ is scheduled to make its recommendations on the RFQ to the EPA next week.
“Well, I appreciate that,” Shadoin said. “And I know with EPA and DEQ and AOC and RFQ—I just don’t want the people to be S-O-L.”
“And we don’t either,” Hatch added.
The open burn method was anticipated to cost the Army between 22 and 24-million dollars. Alternative disposal methods could cost more. And it’s still up in the air whether the Army will pay for anything except open tray burning.