- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

MINDEN, La. (AP) - The Environmental Protection Agency says a test burn of artillery propellant at Camp Minden will take place as part of the contract for burning 15 million pounds of the increasingly unstable explosive.

Air monitoring requirements for the test burn and data from it will be made public before the full-scale burn begins, EPA spokesman Joe Hubbard said in an email Tuesday to The Associated Press.

Four members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation asked last week for more information about plans to burn the M6 propellant before it becomes likely to explode on its own.

“If the EPA had the data to show that burning M6 is safe, then they would not need to conduct additional test burns. If they do not know that it is safe, then they should not burn it outside in our air,” Frances Kelly of the local group Louisiana Progress Action and Concerned Citizens, said in a news release Monday. “If the EPA needs further testing to uphold their claim that an open burn would be safe, then those tests should be conducted in a laboratory.”

U.S. Sens. David Vitter and Bill Cassidy and Reps. John Fleming and Ralph Abraham wrote to the EPA again Monday, saying they want the agency to show that burning it won’t hurt people who live in the area.

They say they also want assurance that air, water and soil will be monitored throughout the burning and cleanup.

“This issue has been dragging on for years, and folks have every right to question the EPA’s strategy,” Vitter said in a news release. “And what’s most frustrating is that this issue is urgent - the Army has told us that these explosives could detonate by this summer. Louisianians deserve to know why the EPA is using this open-burn method, and what that means for the health of their families.”

Local residents wanted an incinerator built on-site, but EPA officials said that would take too long to bid out and build.

The M6 was abandoned on site by Explo Systems Inc. after it went bankrupt in 2013. An explosion in October 2012 in one of Explo’s leased bunkers rattled homes, shattered windows 4 miles away in Minden and created a 7,000-foot mushroom cloud.

The Louisiana Military Department is expected to award a contract for burning the material next month, and its contract requirements call for a test burn, Hubbard said.

He said local and state officials will be notified once a test burn date is set.

Air monitoring and quality assurance plans will be created by the EPA, Louisiana Military Department and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, and will be publicly available, as will results of the test burns, he said.

“Verbal pledges of safety by EPA are not enough,” Fleming said. “The agency must assure the public’s safety with clear scientific data before any burning of explosives at Camp Minden. Our chief priority is the safety of residents across north Louisiana.”

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