Minden Press-Herald

Wednesday
Oct 01st

Webster leaders fighting for Explo clean up

jeriWhen U.S. Department of Defense officials meet next week to discuss clean-up funding for Camp Minden, a local delegation will have a seat at the table.

Minden-South Webster Chamber of Commerce president Jerri de Pingre' said, after writing a letter in support of the funding, her board granted permission for her to fly to Washington and meet with Sen. Mary Landrieu and DOD officials July 17.

"With the letter, I was able to garner 21 'signatures' from area municipalities, trade organizations, chambers of commerce, parish governing bodies and regional elected officials," de Pingre' said. "It is our hope that funding will be made available as a result of this meeting."

The idea is to procure funding to clean up 16 million pounds of M6 Propellant left by now-defunct Explo Systems, Inc., discovered after an explosion at Camp Minden in October 2012. The powder was found Nov. 26, 2012, when officials were conducting an investigation into the explosion that rattled buildings as far away as east Texas.

Also attending the DOD meeting will be District 10 state Rep. Gene Reynolds, D-Minden, local businessman David Madden and Gen. Glenn Curtis, Adjutant General for the Louisiana National Guard.
Reynolds said he believes it will help DOD to make a connection with local folks.

"Putting a local face on a problem like this usually helps, but I don't know if it will be a determining factor," he cautioned. "A lot of times the people up there (Washington) forget the everyday lives of the people here who have issues and problems that need to be addressed."

de Pingre' was able to visit with Landrieu about Camp Minden when she was in Washington during a Chamber convention in early spring.

"There are things that can't or won't happen at Camp Minden, unless we get the M6 cleaned up," de Pingre' told Landrieu.

It is not only a safety issue, but it affects the economy.

"In December, Camp Minden was approached by another company, needing storage for munitions – a huge contract," she said. "But all the bunkers are still full of Explo's M6. So, that company walked away. We're losing business because we haven't been able to dispose of it."

In January, Minden-based Madden Contracting and EXPAL USA conducted tests with a prototype incinerator.

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.

"You're not going to see anything," Madden Contracting Chief Engineer David Madden said during a demonstration. "You're not going to smell anything. That's the beauty of it."

Open burn testing showed 62 parts per million of the greenhouse gas being released; the incinerator tested at 5 parts per million.

"We're even under what a fish cooker is going to produce," Madden said.

If the process is approved by federal officials, the disposal could take about a year to complete.

"There's multiple layers of delays with an open pit," Madden said. "There is no drawback to when the plant can be running."

Madden officials estimate the cost of incineration to be about $18 million – nearly half the cost of an open pit burn.

Reynolds said he hopes clean up can be handled locally by Madden.

"It would be quicker and less expensive to dispose of it on-site," Reynolds said. "We have a number in mind, but that fluctuates. There is a difference in several million dollars of what can be done."

In March, the Environmental Protection Agency laid the responsibility for disposing of the explosive powder on the U.S. Army.

Kristi Martin contributed to this story.

 

EXPLO TIMELINE

October 15, 2012: Officials confirmed the "atmospheric phenomenon" felt and heard by local residents was actually a bunker explosion at Explo Systems at Camp Minden.

 

Nov. 26, 2012: Millions of pounds of improperly stored M6 Propellant were found at Camp Minden by state police as they investigate explosion.

 

Nov. 29, 2012: A voluntary evacuation of Doyline was requested as authorities begin removing M6.

May 20, 2013: Louisiana State Police revoked Explo’s operating license.

May 23, 2013: Bossier/Webster District Attorney Schuyler Marvin took over Explo investigation.

June 10, 2013: Explo filed suit against Louisiana State Police According to court documents filed in 19th Judicial District Court, Explo officials claimed they were “unable to conduct any business, sell any product, or generate any revenues out of the Camp Minden Facility.”

 

June 10, 2013: An indictment was issued for six individuals associated with Explo Systems Inc. by a grand jury in Webster Parish court. Five charges filed against six individuals and Explo include unlawful storage of explosive, reckless storage of explosives, failure to obtain magazine license, failure to properly mark explosives and failure to keep accurate inventory. Conspiracy charges were also filed on top of each.

 

June 18, 2013: Explo owner, David Fincher, 65, of the 200 block of Spicer Road, Burns, Tenn., owner, David Smith, 57, Operations Manager, William Terry Wright, 59, Lionel Koons, 54, Todd Dietrich, 50, and Michael Kile, 43 were booked into Bayou Dorcheat Correctional Center. Each was charged with unlawful storage of explosive, reckless storage of explosives, failure to obtain magazine license, failure to properly mark explosives and failure to keep accurate inventory. Conspiracy charges were also filed on top of each.

 

July 23, 2013: Louisiana Army National Guard (LANG) filed suit against Explo in hopes of obtaining $1.4 million. LANG filed suit in Webster District Court seeking Explo's eviction from the several hundred acres and bunkers it rents from the Guard as well as past due rent and late fees. Invoices filed in the petition show that Explo owed LANG $135,586 in three months worth of lease payments in February 2012.

 

 July 29, 2013: Six indicted Explo employees pled not guilty in district court.

 

August 7, 2013: The U.S. Department of Justice, the Director of Industry Operations for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Attorney General revoked Explo’s license to operate.

 

August 14, 2013: Explo Systems Inc. filed bankruptcy in federal court, halting immediate eviction.

 

August 23, 2013: Lionel Koons and Todd Dietrich pled guilty before a 26th Judicial District Judge to reckless handling of explosives, a misdemeanor. Koons and Dietrich were fined $1,000 plus court costs and must pay $1,000 to Louisiana State Police.

 

October 31, 2013: Michael Kile joined Lionel Koons and Todd Dietrich in pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges, in exchange the for providing testimony against company executives.

 

January 16, 2014: Minden-based Madden Contracting and EXPAL USA conducted tests that would may eliminate the illegally stored M6 Propellant using a prototype incinerator – as opposed to an open burn pit.

 

March 20, 2014: The Environmental Protection Agency laid the responsibility of disposing the 16 million pounds of explosive powder remaining from defunct Explo Systems Inc., on the U.S. Army, who contracted with the now-bankrupted company to demilitarize the munitions.

 

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