Minden Press-Herald

Wednesday
Oct 01st

No place to call home

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Camp Minden running out of room to house Explo M6

An unknown amount of M6 continues to wait for a safe place to call home after more than six million pounds of the improperly stored product has been moved at Explo System Inc.'s lease at Camp Minden.

"We have been moving around 350,000 to 500,000 pounds of product a day, depending on the weather," Webster Parish Gary Sexton said during a meeting of public officials last week. "Our biggest hold-back by far has been lack of space."

An October 15 Explo bunker explosion ignited the investigation, which led to the vast amounts of M6 being found.

After the material was found, the nearby town of Doyline was evacuated and Doyline School was closed for a week, as the material was moved, repackaged and properly stored in bunkers at Camp Minden.

Explo employees have been working over the past weeks under the direction of the Louisiana State police and other authorities to move the M6.

Sexton suggested one reason Explo might have been holding the excess propellant in buildings not approved to house the material.

"They were getting in more product than they could sell to the mining companies that use that product," he said. "At this point there is an unknown amount of product left on site that has not been placed in an approved bunker or magazine."

Technicians Sexton spoke with said there was reason for additional worry.

"Bomb techs are really concerned because an additional product, Trinitrotoluene, which is aluminum and TNT, has been found in the area with the M6," Sexton said. "This propellant (M6) has the capability of producing 65 percent of what TNT does. This is why safety and precaution are our highest priority."

According to figures Sexton was given, Explo was under contract with the federal government to receive 400,000 pounds of product a year for $2.9 million dollars.

"This is a dollar issue," he said. "After disassembling the product they received from the feds, they sold what they can for scrap value but what is left is more propellant than the market has a demand for."

Louisiana State Police have stopped Explo from receiving any more material in Louisiana, but the company is still operating sales.

"I understand Explo was late four days on payroll; their money situation is not good," Sexton said. "So we are hoping as they can find buyers for the properly packaged and stored M6, which is sold and moved every day, that it will free up bunkers so we can move the improperly stored and packaged material into a safe location."

Sexton was unable to say, due to lack of knowledge, where the federal government was storing the product normally received by Explo.

District 9 Representative Henry Burns suggested that by Explo not being able to receive the material, another backlog may have been created elsewhere, but he did not say he knew where the material was being stored.

Gene Reynolds, District 10 Representative, said the legislature intended to do its part in preventing a similar oversight in the future.

"There will be steps taken to keep this from happening again," he said. "We want the National Guard to have complete access to every area of their property, even over leases between private companies, such as Explo, and the federal government."

Sexton agrees with the legislator's vision.

"We hope Explo stays in Webster Parish," he said. "But they, and other companies who are at Camp Minden, should abide by the law. The company will be held liable under the law for where they did not comply, but we also want them to be responsible."

Sexton said Webster Parish Sheriff's Office has incurred more than $105,000 in additional cost resulting from the investigation.

"That figure is from the extra deputies we hired during the evacuation and other cost," he said. "We are keeping tabs on our expenses, which is not going to financially cripple our books, but I'm going to have to relook at our budget."

Sexton does not know if his department or other entities will be reimbursed and said much hinges on the results of the on going investigation.

 

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