The first of many public meetings concerning the disposal of more than 15 million pounds of M6 propellant at Camp Minden drew close to 150 concerned citizens and officials to the Minden Civic Center Thursday night.
There, they learned the agreement reached between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army, which will fund the $28.5 million clean up of the illegally stored material left by Explo Systems, Inc., calls strictly for open air burning.
“Local contractors, the Maddens, designed a device,” Webster Parish Sheriff Gary Sexton, who set up the meeting, said. “For some reason, that device is not being considered in this clean up process.”
“We’re disappointed,” James Madden, owner of Madden Contracting, said. Madden’s son, David spent time and money researching and building a prototype that would’ve allowed closed incineration of the product. “We considered we built a better mousetrap.”
However, Madden may not be out of it yet. The Army must first design a bid package and go through a process required by law to find a company to take on the project.
“The Maddens can throw in a bid on the open tray process,” Sexton said. “They certainly have the right to come in and I think they will do that.”
State Sen. Robert Adley said while discussion concerning responsibility was taking place, the Maddens developed a plan to deal with it. Adley, along with others in the local delegation, attended a demonstration of the incinerator at Camp Minden last January.
“It looked good to us,” Adley said. “We’re not professionals, but under law, by their interpretation, the EPA cannot use that process. I regret that, but it’s where we are at this stage of the game.”
Adley said that under existing law, the Louisiana Military Department and Maj. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis are required to take bids from whoever provides one.
“At the end of the day, he (Curtis) can sit down and decide who’s qualified, who has the experience and if they have the financial backing to do it,” Adley said. “All of those things will be taken into consideration. It would be wonderful if it ended up being someone who, when they finish, will be sitting here breathing this air with us.”
David Madden seemed resigned to the EPA’s decision after attending an informal meeting with officials earlier in the day.
“I’ve studied this process and, yes, I did work for an incinerator,” he said. “I met with EPA officials and other experts not associated with the EPA, and they are going down the right path with the open trays.”
Madden said his change of heart hinged on the haste with which the disposal must take place to avoid more degradation of the product, which makes it more dangerous.
“It is important this get started the first quarter of next year,” he said. “I have looked at the air quality plumes (from open tray burning). Only 10 percent of this fallout will go to Doyline. There’s an equal amount going toward Bossier and going north. Our business is about a mile and a half due east. We’re all going to get some of this.”
District 10 State Rep. Gene Reynolds said, going forward, communication is key.
“On my website and in my office, we will keep all of the completely updated materials,” Reynolds said. “We’re going to keep (the public) informed with everything that comes out from this point forward.”
Sexton stressed the importance of the public’s help.
“Help us calm the fears of the people in the community about what we don’t know is going to happen with the destruction of the M6 propellant,” he said. “We may all speculate on things that may happen, but we don’t need to talk about what we have to worry about. The people who are going to be responsible – whoever the contractor is – the people that are going to be disposing of this product, keep them in your prayers because something could happen to the people who are responsible for going out there and opening those bunkers, picking this product up, moving it and destroying it where we can live in a safer community.”
The next public meeting is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 16. Time and location have not been decided.