Minden Press-Herald

Thursday
Oct 02nd

Schools closed through Thursday; Explo officials still missing

State legislation may be drawn after an investigation of Explo System's Inc. concludes, following an October 15 explosion and a follow-up inspection where more than six million pounds of improperly store propellant was found at Camp Minden.

The evacuation of Doyline, which is in effect as the hazardous material is moved to proper storage, has been extended until Thursday, with the possibility of continuing beyond that. The evacuation means Doyline School and area road closures will remain in effect until the evacuation is lifted.

Officials are reminding residents the area has not yet been deemed safe, and they continue to urge residents to remain outside the evacuated area until it is deemed safe.

At the close of operations yesterday, the weather had not caused any delays and Explo System's personnel had moved another 400,000 pounds of material, bringing the four-day total to 1.6 million pounds that is now properly stored in magazines.

Louisiana State Police said Explo personnel on site at Camp Minden are working safely and diligently in a cooperative effort to move the product.

However, Explo owners still have not made contact with authorities and Explo attorneys have "not said much" to authorities conducting the investigation or evacuation. It is unknown if Explo owners have returned to the U.S., after reportedly being in South Korea.

District 8 State Representative Jeff Thompson, who sits on the joint committee for homeland security, said he does not understand how six million pounds of improperly stored propellant came to be at Explo's lease.

"I can't get on an airplane with four ounces of shampoo, but I can have a couple millions pounds of unprotected, improperly stored propellant sitting within striking distance of a school," he said. "Tell me that's not wrong."

Thompson and District 10 Representative Gene Reynolds plan to convene a special meeting to address the issue.

"At that meeting, which may be in January – and I hope a lot of you will attend – we want to address who is in charge of security, who is in charge of the oversight," Reynolds told Doyline residents. "What we also want to address is – do you want this here?

"Is this something we want in our community?" he continued. "That's something that you are going to have to let us know so we can go down there and legislatively change some things to make it what you want."

Thompson agrees with Reynolds and said they want to make sure preventative measures are put in place.

"Whatever allowed these circumstances – whatever allowed this company to get so far outside the law – we want to ensure it never happens again in Louisiana," Thompson said.

Both representatives think a thorough investigation is needed before legislation can be written to protect a similar occurrence in the future.

"I want to get through the immediate crisis and conclude the investigation," Thompson said. "We need to hear from the sheriff's office, from Louisiana State Police, Homeland Security, from all agencies involved to determine how this happened so we can introduce laws to prevent this from happening again."

"It is very important we first determine what went wrong so the legislation we write is drafted properly," Reynolds said.

Thompson said the many government entities and authorities that are involved may have been a contributing factor to the six million pounds sitting unnoticed for a still undetermined amount of time.

"It seems to me what we have is federal contactors on state property," he said. "Perhaps, somehow, there was a lack of oversight, but we will find out what specifically went wrong. Thank goodness the state police happened to go out there and identified this."

Thompson said thinking about the magnitude of danger is daunting.

"A millions pounds of feathers is dangerous – that's a million pounds of something flammable," he said. "What we have is a flammable propellant. Granted this does not explode, it is a propellant, but you ignite anything that is flammable, much less a million pounds of this ... that magnitude of a fire, it's likely we would be evacuating east Texas."

 

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