The very first of many public meetings regarding the disposal of over 15 million pounds of M6 propellant in Camp Minden drew close to 150 concerned officials and citizens to the Minden Civic Center Thursday night.
There, they learned the arrangement reached between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army, that will finance the $28.5 million clean up of their illegally stored substance left by Explo Systems, Inc., calls strictly for open air burning.
“Local builders, the Maddens, designed a device,” Webster Parish Sheriff Gary Sexton, who put up the assembly, said. “For some reason, that apparatus isn’t being considered within this clean up process.”
“We’re disappointed,” James Madden, proprietor of Madden Contracting, said. Madden’s son, David spent money and time researching and constructing a prototype that would have permitted closed incineration of the product. “We considered we built a better mousetrap.”
But Madden might not be from it yet. The Army should first design a bid package and go through a procedure required by law to find a company to take on the project.
“The Maddens can throw at a bid on the open tray procedure,” Sexton said.
State Sen. Robert Adley said while debate regarding responsibility was taking place, the Maddens developed a strategy to deal with this. Adley, together with others from the local delegation, attended a demonstration of the incinerator in Camp Minden past January. “We’re not professionals, but under law, by their interpretation, the EPA cannot use that procedure. I regret this, but it’s where we are in this stage of the game”
Adley said that under present law, the Louisiana Military Department and Maj. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis are expected to take calls from whoever supplies one.
“At the close of the afternoon , he (Curtis) can sit right down and decide who’s qualified, who has the expertise and if they have the financial capital to do it,” Adley said. “All of these things will be taken under consideration. It would be wonderful if it ended up being a person who, if they complete, will probably be sitting breathing this air .”
David Madden appeared resigned to the EPA’s choice after attending an informal meeting with officials earlier in the day.
“I’ve studied this procedure and, yes, I did work for the incinerator,” he said. “I met with EPA officials and other experts not associated with the EPA, and they are going down the right path with the holes that are open “
Madden said his change of heart hinged on the haste with which the disposal has to take place to avoid more degradation of the item, which makes it increasingly dangerous.
“It is important this get started the first quarter of next year,” he said. “I’ve looked in the air quality plumes (from open tray burning). Only 10 percent of the fallout will go to Doyline. There’s an equal amount heading toward Bossier and moving north. Our business is about a mile and a half since east. We’re all going to get a number of this.”
District 10 State Rep. Gene Reynolds said, moving forward, communication is essential.
“In my website and in my office, we will continue to keep each the completely upgraded stuff,” Reynolds said. “We’re going to keep (the public) educated with everything that emerges from this point forward.”
Sexton stressed the value of the public’s help.
“Help us calm the fears of those people in the community about what we don’t understand will occur with the destruction of the M6 propellant,” he said. “We might all agree on matters that may occur, but we don’t need to talk about what we need to fret about. The individuals who are likely to be responsible — whoever the contractor is — the people that are likely to be disposing of the item, keep them in your prayers because something could happen to the people who are responsible for moving out there and opening those bunkers, choosing this item upward, moving it and ruining it where we can live in a safer neighborhood.”
The upcoming public meeting is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 16. Time and location have never been decided.