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Question of the Day
West Virginia mine safety officials also said Explo violated state regulations, but it wasn’t immediately clear what penalties the state may have imposed.
Some workers filed lawsuits claiming the exposure to tetryl made them sick. The substance can cause symptoms including nosebleeds, yellowing of the skin, headaches and, in prolonged exposure, liver damage, according the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Explo Systems had planned to use more than a million pounds of tetryl for mining, according to the federal report. That would have enabled the company to dispose of outdated explosives for the Department of Defense while also making money from the mining industry.
Explo Systems, which was registered in Louisiana in 2001, has made millions from contracts with the military. Last year, the company listed its annual revenue as $3 million with 70 employees, according to the Federal Procurement Data System.
The Army awarded Explo Systems a contract in 2010 to demilitarize hundreds of thousands of propelling charges for artillery rounds. The contract was for $2.9 million with options for renewal for four years. The contract called for the demilitarization of as many as 450,000 propelling charges per year. Demilitarizing explosives generally entails changing a device or chemical in a way that it can’t be used for battle.
The contract also raises questions about what Explo told the Army when bidding on the job and in subsequent reports. The solicitation for the contract required the company to provide “a detailed description of storage capacity.”
A July 2011 report from the Government Accountability Office related to a dispute between Explo Systems and General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., over a military contract said the military rated Explo Systems‘ safety approach as “good.” It was rated “satisfactory” in areas like its program management plan and “exceptional” for past performance. It wasn’t clear from the report if the 2006 explosion in Louisiana or the problems in West Virginia were taken into account as part of that assessment.
The Explo facility is located on Camp Minden, a Louisiana National Guard base. The U.S. government had acquired the land in 1941 to build the Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant. It was handed over the state of Louisiana in 2005. Because it was set up as a munitions factory, the site was suitable for private companies in the explosives business.
“As a commercial tenant, they are responsible for all their operations and abiding by the laws and regulations, both state and federal. It’s upsetting that they would allow this to occur,” he said.
Authorities had said it’s not clear exactly what Explo was planning to do with the estimated 6 million pounds of propellant that prompted the evacuation, though some experts say it can be used in the manufacturing of explosives in the mining industry.
Authorities say the explosions at the Louisiana facility in October and in 2006 were caused by a different kind of material.
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