A representative from Explosive Services International says there’s a lot of misinformation circulating about their closed burn chamber at Camp Minden and their desire to stay put once their contract is done.
It’s been a topic of great debate among residents of Bossier and Webster parish. Jason Poe, Vice President of ESI, said the company has been transparent since day one, yet they are fighting to maintain their reputation among all the false information.
Established in 1987, Explosive Services International has grown into one of the industry’s most experienced explosive demolition, disposal and salvage contractors. That’s something Poe takes great pride in.
“We are doing the largest ammunition disposal that’s ever been done in the history of the world and we’re doing it with the most environmentally clean technology possible,” Poe said. “The reason this project was done on Camp Minden was because the material was unstable. It was stored outside and not properly monitored. It was stashed in the woods and behind buildings by a company that is now bankrupt.”
Poe continued: “We own the largest and cleanest facility in the world. We are putting out zero emissions right now.”
ESI has brought in $15 million state-of-the-art equipment to properly dispose the M6. The closed burn facility is closely monitored and tested regularly. Poe pointed out their Camp Minden website (www.esicampminden.com) reports emissions data 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“We’ve conducted three emission tests, which were validated by the EPA and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. All three of those tests have proven that our emissions are zero,” Poe explained.
In one of those tests, the emission results were compared to the quality of ambient air.
“That test showed that the air we breathe is two times dirtier than the air that’s coming out of our stack,” Poe said. “That’s all been validated and the results are on our ESI Camp Minden website.”
Poe added that he’s “very confident” in the emission data.
“We are not going to do anything to harm our state or employees,” he added. “We all live in this state. My employees are from here and from the Webster-Bossier area.”
One thing the public has right is the terms of their contract, which calls for the equipment to be dismantled once their current job is complete. Poe said that contract has been amended several times to add or take away things from the contract.
His hope is that the contract will be amended again to allow them to stay on Camp Minden. Their current employment number would rise from 35 full-time jobs to “well over 100” if they are allowed to stay. Poe said these would be good paying jobs with great benefits.
Poe also clarified how the chamber would work if it were to stay.
“It would become a treatment storage and disposal facility. We wold be held accountable by a completely different set of regulations,” Poe explained. “We would have quarterly audits, physical audits of our books and on our site. There’s no stock piling of material either. We would basically have one year from the time we accept something until the time it has to be destroyed.”
Poe stressed that materials would not be brought in by rail or air, but by legal transport via interstates and highways.
“It’s legal to transport materials that are in stable condition. [Materials] would be sent to Camp Minden by legal transport just like gasoline,” Poe said. “It would come in off of I-20 to Highway 80 and in through the freight gate. It would not go through any communities other than the distance between I-20 and the gate.”
Poe also pointed out that there are several other explosives contractors currently operating at Camp Minden.
“There are about seven of them that operate out here and have explosives coming in and out of there every week,” he said. “There have been no accidents involving transportation of explosives. The material we would bring in is treated just like any other hazardous material that goes up and down our interstates.”
ESI has offered tours of the Camp Minden site, which can be set up through the Minden-South Webster Chamber of Commerce, to show the public what they are doing and how the equipment works. Poe encourages people to schedule a tour and see their work before passing judgement.
“People are trying to make decisions based on false information and emotions. They aren’t making their decision based on the science behind this, which has been validated by state and federal regulators as well as two independent contractors,” Poe said. “We’ve been transparent from the very beginning. We have nothing to hide.”