Camp Minden burn chamber’s future still up in the air

By Amanda Simmons

Explosive Service International has burned the last tray of M6 propellant at Camp Minden, but they aren’t packing up and leaving just yet.

ESI Vice President Jason Poe said there are other things to finish before their contract is considered complete. They’ve addressed the dangerous part of the job and have started the cleanup phase.

ESI will now go back into each bunker to make sure there is no residual M6 left in any of the bunkers and return the bunkers to a usable state. They will also begin the cleanup process at the site, cleaning rental equipment used throughout the project as well as the site itself.

“The dangerous part (M6) has been completed safely and on time,” Poe said. “We have 92 magazines that we have to clean out and turn over to the Louisiana Military Department. These are other aspects of the job that will take us several weeks to complete.”

As for a permit to operate beyond the M6 project, Poe said they have not discussed seeking a permit nor have they sought one from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. The ultimate decision on whether ESI will stay after the contract is completed is up to Gov. John Bel Edwards as the contract is between ESI and the LMD.

Edwards has yet to make a decision and doesn’t plan to make one until he meets with local legislators, Edwards’s Communications Director Richard Carbo said.

“We’re trying to finish the contract out, and upon completion of the project, we’d like to have the LMD as well as public officials grade us on our success,” he said. “If they deem we accomplished what we set out to do under the contract, we’d like to see if this would fit into the uses of Camp Minden for what it’s been deemed to be used for by LMD. We would ask to discuss the possibility of a lease. We have not done that, I have nothing in writing or anything verbally. We have been running 24/7, focused on the completion of the emergency project we were hired to do.”

Their contract has been extended to Aug. 31, and Poe said the extension came about due to inclement weather and the 30 days they shut down during the Environmental Protection Agency’s review of the comprehensive performance test.

Poe intends to remain transparent through the remaining process. He commended  his employees for making sure the project was done in the safest and most environmentally friendly way possible.

“They put themselves in harm’s way every day for their community,” Poe said. “We would not have been as successful without their herculean effort. We are proud of the work they did on this project.”