Gov. Edwards tours Camp Minden

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Bruce Franklin/Press-Herald | Lousiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, surrounded by local officials and army officials, speaks on the cleanup efforts at Camp Minden after touring the M6 destruction site Friday.

MICHELLE BATES
michelle@press-herald.com

Gov. John Bel Edwards toured what Explosive Service International officials say is the cleanest contained burn system in the world Friday.

He took a tour, along with local and state elected officials, of the contained burn system at Camp Minden that will ultimately destroy nearly 16 million pounds of demilitarized M6 artillery propellant in the coming months. During a press conference, he announced the first live fire will take place next week but did not specify a particular day.

“It’s kind of strange to say that you’re excited about the disposal of explosives,” Edwards said. “Having been in this area a year ago and comparing where we are today with where we were a year ago with the community being anxious and concerned about open burn – now that process has been completely changed to a contained burn that we believe is going to be much better for the environment and much safer for the people here. And something that’s taken shape so quickly and professionally with a Louisiana company, ESI, which I believe is going to demonstrate to the rest of the country and perhaps to the world what a new generation of technology and what Louisiana can accomplish as well.”

He went on to say the full scale operation will begin no later than June, and within a year, all of the munitions will be disposed of properly and safely. He thanked the people of north Louisiana for making their voices heard. He thanked Rep. Gene Reynolds, District 10, and the other elected officials for bringing attention to the situation and for working hard to help bring about a safer alternative to the open burn.

When asked about his position on open burn, Edwards says he is not taking a position on it just yet, but is aware of House Bill 11, which if passed into law, would make it illegal to open burn munitions in the State of Louisiana.

“I do not take a position on it today, however, if we can do more contained burns and less open burns, I think everyone is better off,” he said. “I haven’t taken a position on that, and I haven’t studied it to the point that I’m prepared to do that. I’ve talked to the proponents, but I have not had the opportunity to talk to anyone else about the bill.”

Reynolds, in response to Edwards’ answer on HB11, says negotiations are still ongoing with the bill.

Bruce Franklin/Press-Herald |  Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, center, along with Minden Mayor Tommy Davis, State Rep Gene Reynolds and Sen. Ryan Gatti, gives an update on the M6 destruction at Camp Minden Friday. Edwards said the burn is expected to start this week.
Bruce Franklin/Press-Herald | Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, center, along with Minden Mayor Tommy Davis, State Rep Gene Reynolds and Sen. Ryan Gatti, gives an update on the M6 destruction at Camp Minden Friday. Edwards said the burn is expected to start this week.

“We’re just talking about what the company will or won’t do and what we will or won’t do,” he said. “It’s a very touchy situation where we have to decide what’s best. We’re not here to put anybody out of business. We want businesses to stay here, and our goal is for them to understand we want them to do their jobs in a clean way, where we can still have the money, still have the taxes, but have the health too.”

Sen. Ryan Gatti, District 36, the attorney who represented the people of Doyline when it was discovered Explo had improperly stored the M6, also filed a marriage bill to HB 11. He says SB 426 is essentially the same as Reynolds’ bill, and wants the same thing for the people of Louisiana – stopping the open burn of munitions in the state.

“The state should protect the safety of the public by using the methods that are safest for the citizens, not the cheapest method,” he said. “Open burning large quantities of chemicals over long periods of time is dangerous for the surrounding communities.
Yesterday’s tour was the result of years of hard work by the community to protect the safety of its citizens. The people of Doyline can breathe easy.”