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More than 500 residents ask Police Jury to uphold Camp Minden burn chamber removal

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ESI's contained burn unit at Camp Minden. (Courtesy of Minden Press-Herald)

Local residents delivered more than 500 letters to the Bossier Parish Police Jury Thursday asking them to ensure Camp Minden’s hazardous waste burn chamber will be dismantled and removed.

The letters called on the elected officials to uphold the agreement made between EPA, the National Guard, local elected leaders, and citizens that the hazardous waste incinerator/burn chamber will be dismantled and removed from Camp Minden as soon as the destruction of the M6 propellant is completed.

There had been discussions that ESI’s contained burn chamber continue to operate outside of the contractual agreement.

ESI was awarded the contract to dispose of millions of pounds of M6, an explosive propellant that was left improperly stored by Explo Systems Inc. after a 2012 explosion. The contract included a stipulation that after all materials at Louisiana National Guard’s Camp Minden were destroyed, ESI would cease operations.

To date, more than 8,187,600 pounds of material have been destroyed and ESI said the project will be completed in May 2017.

Rebecca Sherrard, a resident of Doyline who has been involved with the Concerned Citizens’ Campaign since the very beginning, said, “I am very confident that the work plan will be followed through and the chamber will be dismantled and moved away from Camp Minden and we will never see it again.”

According to the Minden Press-Herald, Webster Police Jurors have not formally made any request of any officials to alter the existing contract. However, they believe there are a several applications for the burn chamber, but none including unstable materials.

The letters, signed by local residents, were also delivered to the Webster Parish Police Jury by the Concerned Citizens group.

“No one should doubt the determination of the Concerned Citizens when it comes to keeping this community safe and we intend to hold all parties involved to the commitment they made during the Dialogue Process,” said Frances Kelley, Louisiana Progress Action.
“Many of us are willing to do whatever it takes to prevent Camp Minden from becoming a permanent hazardous waste disposal site.”

You can read the letter in full below:

Dear Webster and Bossier Parish Police Juries,

We are writing to remind you of the agreement that was made between EPA, the state of Louisiana, local elected leaders, and citizens concerning the end of the M6 disposal and the future of Camp Minden.   As you know, thousands of North Louisiana citizens came together in the spring of 2015 to fight the proposed open burn of 15 million pounds of hazardous waste explosives at Camp Minden.  There was extensive discussion throughout the campaign and in the Dialogue Committee about ensuring that North Louisiana would not become a permanent hazardous waste disposal site.

During the Dialogue Committee process, the citizens, local leaders, EPA, the National Guard, and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality all agreed on certain key criteria for any technology that would be used in the M6 disposal.

One of those criteria was:

     “6. LEAVE NOTHING BEHIND

  • All installed equipment must be completely removed
  • No waste or residues left on Camp Minden
  • In accordance with the AOC, the property will be returned to its original  condition

EPA included in the work plan for the contractor that the contained burn chamber must be dismantled and removed from the site before closure.  House Concurrent Resolution 172 of 2015 which unanimously passed the legislature resolved “that the Louisiana Legislature does hereby direct the Louisiana National Guard not accept waste explosives at Camp Minden brought into the state after August 1, 2015.”  All sides—EPA, the National Guard, and local leaders—made a commitment to the citizens of Doyline and surrounding communities that the incinerator would not remain at Camp Minden.

Despite this, the company operating the contained burn chamber is now attempting to keep the incinerator at Camp Minden and import more hazardous waste to burn.  The citizens of Doyline and surrounding area have been through enough—multiple explosions, the fear of an open burn, years of uncertainty about what would happen at Camp Minden.  Importing explosive hazardous waste to Camp Minden for demilitarization is what caused the crisis with M6 and CBI in the first place.

Both Webster Parish and Bossier Parish had representatives on the Camp Minden Dialogue Committee (Webster Parish Police Jury President Jim Bonsall, Webster Parish Sheriff Gary Sexton, Webster Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness John Stanley, and Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington), so the parishes should be well aware of the commitments that were made through the Dialogue Committee process to best protect the community.  Please provide assurance that Webster Parish and Bossier Parish will uphold the agreement to prevent any permanent hazardous waste incinerator in our community.