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EPA work group starts open talks about how to destroy Camp Minden's M6 stockpile

Kate Archer Kent

Dozens of people met in the Webster parish town of Minden Thursday as part of a work group formed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to find a better way to destroy 15 million pounds of explosives stored at Camp Minden.

The five-hour meeting set the stage for a new process that will be transparent. Last year, federal and state officials inked a deal with the Army to openly burn the abandoned M6. Residents were outraged. Ron Curry, the EPA’s region 6 director, called the dialogue committee a positive step forward.

“I’m really anxious for the folks here to get a good feeling and understanding that we’re here to have a collaborative process. Out of that is going to come hopefully the solution that is going to be protective of human health and the environment,” Curry said.

The committee will meet twice weekly through a mix of conference calls and face-to-face meetings. Webster Parish homeland security and emergency preparedness director John Stanley says this is the buy-in that had been missing up to this point.

“I think everybody has been kind of up in arms because the due process that you’re supposed to go through, which includes this committee, didn’t occur before the EPA, the Army and the state showed up and said this is what we’re going to do. That angered a lot of people,” Stanley said.

Webster Parish Sherriff Gary Sexton says he never supported an open burn of the M6. But whatever way it’s ultimately destroyed, he’s worried about the safety of the people who have to handle the deteriorating and volatile explosives.

“Let’s put public safety first, whichever option is the safest, no matter what it costs in the long run. I know the dollar bill is a factor in this. It has always been a factor in it, but public safety is the number one issue. That’s the one I am going to be looking at real hard. Because if you lose someone out there fooling with this stuff you can’t get them back. We can always get a dollar back,” Sexton said.

Curry said he was encouraged by a letter this week from the Louisiana National Guard's Maj. Gen. Glenn Curtis seeking competitive quotes from contractors that can offer alternative disposal methods. But Curry is still unclear about how to get around the legal framework of a binding contract to burn the M6 brokered by the groups last October.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.
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