By Chris Butler | Louisiana Watchdog
Government officials knew as far back as 1989 that explosive material stored at Camp Minden had already contaminated soil, surface water and groundwater around the plant, according to a memo written last summer.
As reported, Environmental Protection Agency officials plan to burn 15 million pounds of M6 propellant explosives at the plant, originally designed for military use, into the northern Louisiana atmosphere.
People exposed to it might develop cancer or blood pressure problems or even pass on birth defects to their children, experts warn.
According to the EPA document, as of last year, Camp Minden had 1.8 million pounds of an aluminum/TNT mixture. In addition to the M6, the memo lists the camp as having other explosives and propellants.
As the EPA memo goes on, an unknown amount of TNT contaminated the camp 26 years ago.
The memo says Explo Systems, the private company responsible for overseeing the 15 million pounds of explosives, had nothing to do with that 1989 contamination.
But, as the memo also says, EPA officials are investigating whether Explo, which has since gone bankrupt, contributed to more problems.
Former Louisiana Tech professor Bob Flournoy, who holds a doctorate in environmental toxicology, told Louisiana Watchdog he has reviewed the EPA’s memo, and he is alarmed.
“If these explosives are not handled properly, you aren’t going to have a lot of business development in north Louisiana,” Flournoy said.
“Companies won’t want to move here.”
In a statement, EPA spokeswoman Jennah Durant said the agency’s modeling shows emissions will be within acceptable levels.
“EPA will be on-site and conduct independent oversight to confirm the contractor’s adherence to the environmental requirements. We will make our information available to the public,” Durant said.
Parish residents fear these toxins, which could rise two miles into the atmosphere depending on weather conditions, might eventually cover their entire corner of the state or spread into Texas or Arkansas.
A storage bunker containing explosives at the camp, a training site for the Louisiana National Guard, exploded in 2012. The explosion, according to an EPA news release, shattered windows in the city of Minden, four miles away, and generated a 7,000-foot mushroom cloud. EPA officials initiated negotiations late last year to dispose of the explosives, which they say are in danger of exploding later this year.
According to the EPA’s memo, vegetation on the tops and sides of this material is affecting its structural integrity by taking in moisture.
Flournoy said safe alternatives to an open burn exist, and the EPA hasn’t considered them, although agency officials did announce a 90-day delay on the burn late last week.
Webster Parish resident Melissa Downer, who lives near the camp, says the EPA’s actions have saddened her and other residents.
“People are talking about moving away, already, but there are so many others that don’t have that option. Houses here will depreciate because no one will want them,” Downer said.
“It’s such a nice place to live with the land and the people and the tight-knit community, and it’s being jeopardized because of their negligence and basically thinking of us as collateral damage.”
Contact Christopher Butler at [email protected]
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