- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - New doors may be needed to reduce the severity of potential explosions in bunkers where thousands of tons of abandoned artillery propellant are stored at Camp Minden, an Army report says.

The report said porous or “blow-out” doors should be installed if it takes longer than 12 or 18 months to destroy M6 propellant and other materials abandoned by a bankrupt company, because unsealed containers of those materials risk “catastrophic auto-ignition.”

The Environmental Protection Agency had asked the Army to check five bunkers including two with damp, moldy containers of M6. One was leaking and another so humid that condensed water was dripping from the roof and in pools on the floor, the report said.

The moldy containers were moved to a drier spot in the same bunkers, said Brian Salvatore, a Louisiana State University-Shreveport chemistry professor who was on a “dialogue committee” that reviewed possible ways to get rid of the chemicals.

In an emailed statement Wednesday, Salvatore said he is concerned by the “recent dire assessment of the stability of the M6 and CBI in some of the bunkers” and has suggested that the Louisiana National Guard, which owns Camp Minden, test submersion in a chemical which he thinks would stabilize it. Col. Pete Schneider, spokesman for the guard, said that suggestion should go to the EPA.

The report also said that a bag of highly flammable nitrocellulose needs to be destroyed as soon as possible because some is wet and could start a fire that would set off everything else in its magazine.

The three-pound bag will be disposed of away from Camp Minden, EPA spokesman David Gray said also in an email. He said he did not know where it will be taken.

Salvatore said it had been packed in liquid. It was overlooked by a company that was supposed to remove it last year and was returning to pick it up, he said.

It was with some of the 7,800 tons of M6 and 160 tons of “clean-burning igniters” that another company, Explo Systems Inc., abandoned after going bankrupt in 2013. Much of the material had been left out in the open.

The EPA created an uproar in the area last year by saying open burning in shallow trays was the only way to destroy the materials before this August, when Army experts had said they probably would become dangerously explosive. Area residents said open burning could do longstanding harm to health and the environment.

The national guard is now evaluating 10 alternative proposals.

None can be completed by August, the EPA wrote in its request for the Army’s recent evaluation.

The Army’s response said there’s no way to predict just when the chemicals might start burning on their own.

It said the amount of material in each magazine was calculated to keep any possible “catastrophic event” within Camp Minden. Cosmetic damage and broken windows “without projection of glass shards inward” and “anomalous significant adverse events” were possible outside the installation.

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