- Associated Press - Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Army has agreed to pay for the burning of 7,800 tons of potentially explosive artillery propellant and 160 tons of other material at Camp Minden. That should clear the way for the Louisiana National Guard to sign a contract with Explosive Service International of Baton Rouge, the Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday.

Word came in a letter emailed Thursday from the Department of Justice, representing the Army, to National Guard Maj. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis.

“This is an important milestone to moving forward” with getting rid of the material improperly stored and abandoned by Explo Systems Inc. at Camp Minden, said Ron Curry, regional administrator for the EPA, which released a copy of the letter.

U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said, “This commitment from the Army will finally allow us to take the next step toward cleaning up Camp Minden once and for all.”

Authorities learned there was a problem at the National Guard property in October 2012, when an explosion in a bunker leased by Explo Systems rattled homes, shattered windows 4 miles away in Minden and created a 7,000-foot mushroom cloud that showed up on National Weather Service Doppler radar.

State police inspected and found the material, much of it in the open. The company stored it more safely in 92 bunkers, then declared bankruptcy. Nobody knows just how old the material is. The older M6 gets, the more unstable it becomes, the Army has said.

Thursday’s agreement won’t affect any payment to EPA for overseeing the burn and monitoring for pollution, spokesman David Gray said in an email.

Vitter and U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-La., had accused the EPA of holding up the contract by asking for what Fleming said was about $8 million above the $1.2 million the state already had paid for the agency to oversee the cleanup.

Gray wrote, “We asked that negotiations between federal agencies about the reimbursement of our costs be handled separately and not delay any action with state.”






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