CAMP MINDEN — Sixteen million pounds of propellant powder may be at the center of a lawsuit as officials work to determine who is responsible for paying for its removal from Camp Minden.
The explosive powder remains at the former Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant after bankrupt and evicted tenant Explo ceased operation after an investigation initiated by Louisiana State Police following an explosion in October 2012.
Maj. Gen. Glen Curtis and Col. Ron Stuckey updated the Friday lunch bunch on the status of Camp Minden and Explo was a hot topic.
"This whole problem is tied around who's got the money to take care of it," Stuckey said.
When the Army signed the contract with Explo to dispose of the explosive powder, the contract stated that the Army must have the ability to accept and dismantle the powder safely if need be, Curtis said.
"The Army has a contractural obligation to make sure the disposal took place," Curtis said. "When this ends up in a courtroom, the Army is going to lose."
The National Guard asked for federal funds to dispose of the material, but was denied.
"Every attempt was made, but the government said it's not our problem," Stuckey said. "When the EPA, ATF, state police and FBI know you by first name, you've got a real problem, and they know Ron Stuckey by name."
The EPA identified the parties potentially responsible for the M6, and negotiated agreements with those parties to remove 2.4 million pounds of a type of mixture of the powder. That process will take about six to eight months and create 25 new jobs at Camp Minden.
The removal of the remaining 16 million pounds may take awhile if pending litigation proceeds.
The powder is legally stored in 97 igloos or bunkers around the Camp Minden compound – as safe as it can be in its present state. If an incident were to occur, it would be similar to the bunker explosion in October 2012 that led to the discovery of the illegally stored powder, Curtis said.
"It was a mess," Curtis said. "You can't put enough lipstick on that pig."
In January, Madden Contracting and EXPAL USA, both Camp Minden tenants, conducted tests with a prototype incinerator that they claim would save taxpayers millions of dollars in disposal of the powder.
Madden officials estimate the cost of incineration to be about $18 million – nearly half the cost of an open pit burn – but the process has yet to be approved by federal agencies.
The prototype is an exact scale of the 8-by-40 foot machine modeled after equipment the contractor uses in laying hot mix. The prototype burns one pellet per second; the incinerator would burn 2.8 pounds per second.
Testing showed the incinerator to release 16,000 times less nitrous oxide into the air than an open pit burn. The incinerator also leaves no trace of propellant while open burning leaves a bit of a residue, which could be dozens of pounds of waste to be disposed.
Open burn testing showed 62 parts per million of the greenhouse gas being released; the incinerator tested at 5 parts per million – less emissions than that of a fish cooker, Madden officials said.
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