- Associated Press - Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Environmental Protection Agency has begun testing air and soil at Camp Minden in the area where 7,500 tons of deteriorating and potentially explosive artillery propellant will be destroyed.

The agency is doing the testing so it can record normal levels of pollution to compare with levels during the destruction.

There’s no word yet on whether the agency will OK a contract proposed by the Louisiana National Guard, or which of 10 bidders is involved. However, a decision is close, spokesman David Gray said in a statement.

The sampling team started Wednesday on Louisiana National Guard’s 15,000-acre site, and should start Saturday in Haughton - the first of a half-dozen sites to be tested outside the camp, he wrote.

The plan posted late Wednesday on EPA’s website calls for samples at two spots in Camp Minden and in population centers around it - the Bossier Parish town of Haughton and unincorporated community of Princeton, and, Webster Parish, Minden, Doyline, Sibley and a parish fire station about 7 miles north of the camp.

Minden, with 13,000 residents, is the largest. Doyline has 800 residents.

The fire station is the most distant site. The closest is Doyline, about three-quarters of a mile from Camp Minden’s southern fence and about 2 miles from the site where the a contractor would destroy the M6 propellant and 160 tons of “clean-burning igniters” that Explo Systems Inc. abandoned after going bankrupt in 2013.

Soil samples will be checked for “a broad spectrum of potential contaminants” including heavy metals, volatile organic compounds and semi-volatile organic compounds. Tests for heavy metals and for pH were added at the suggestion of someone in the community, noting that some of the technologies involved the use of acids, bases and dangerous heavy metals, according to EPA.

Air will be tested for dust and smaller particles, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, as well as for the organics.

Surface water and groundwater also will be checked. That plan hasn’t yet been created, but the water will be sampled before the materials are destroyed, EPA said.

Authorities learned there was a problem in October 2012, when an explosion in a bunker leased by Explo rattled homes, shattered windows 4 miles away in Minden and created a 7,000-foot mushroom cloud.

A state police inspection found the material, much of it in the open. Nobody knows just how old it is. The older M6 gets, the more unstable it becomes, the Army has said.

EPA originally said open burning in shallow trays was the only way to destroy the M6 before it became dangerously explosive. Community protests prompted an agreement to consider other methods.

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Online: https://www2.epa.gov/la/camp-minden

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