ACTION ALERT: Opposition to US Army's Munitions Burn Gains National Support
January 21, 2015
Laura Olah / Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger & Greg Hilburn / The News-Star
More than 70 US social and environmental groups have asked the EPA to stop the proposed open burning of 15 million pounds of M6 -- an explosive propellant used to launch artillery shells. Three of the volatile organic compounds in M6 propellant are environmental poisons. M6 contains dinitrotoluene (DNT), which is classified as a probable human carcinogen. DNT is toxic if inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin. Such open burns are banned in Canada and many other countries.
Special to EAW
Opposition to Munitions Burn Gains National Support
Laura Olah / Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger
MERRIMAC, WI (January 19, 2015) -- More than 70 social and environmental justice organizations from across the US sent a joint letter to EPA today calling on the agency to stop the proposed open burning of 15 million pounds of abandoned M6 propellants at Camp Minden, Louisiana. The national coalition of groups was organized by CSWAB in support of Louisiana residents and workers seeking a safe alternative to possibly the largest open air munitions burn in US history.
"By definition, open burning has no emissions controls and will result in the uncontrolled release of toxic emissions and respirable particulates to the environment," the coalition's letter says. "M6 contains approximately 10 percent dinitrotoluene (DNT) which is classified as a probable human carcinogen."
"Three of the volatile organic compounds in M6 propellant are environmental poisons, which could be dispersed throughout the region on particulate matter in the atmosphere. No one has ever provided any data showing that an open burn of M6 should have ever even been considered in the first place," said Brian Salvatore, Ph.D., Professor of Chemistry at Louisiana State University-Shreveport. "The practice has, in fact, been completely banned in Canada and in several other counties. You cannot open burn even one ounce of this propellant in Canada."
"These three chemicals are among the most toxic in the United States and over 2,100,000 pounds of these compounds are scheduled to burn," added Dolores Blalock, an organizer with Louisiana's ArkLaTex Clean Air Network. "DNT is toxic if inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin."
The national coalition of groups opposing the burn was organized by Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB), a community-based group that successfully stopped open burning of waste propellants at Wisconsin's Badger Army Ammunition Plant.
"We ended decades of open burning but unfortunately not before the practice contaminated the land and groundwater," said Laura Olah, Executive Director of CSWAB. "It came too late for us, but it's not too late to protect families and workers in Louisiana."
The coalition supports the EPA's decision compelling the military to clean up the Camp Minden site but believes the risks associated with open burning are excessive and preventable.
"While we support the EPA's initiative to require the US Army to clean up and dispose of these improperly stored explosive wastes, we do not support open burning as a remedy given the inherent and avoidable risks to human health and the environment," the coalition wrote.
"Moreover, as the EPA's plan provides for the safe handling and transport to an open burning area, these wastes could be similarly moved to an alternative treatment facility or system," the groups emphasized.
Among those signing the letter to EPA are:
Erin Brockovich (CA),
Alaska Community Action on Toxics (AK),
Center for Biological Diversity (CA),
Chemical Weapons Working Group (KY),
United Tribe of Shawnee Indians (KS),
Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LA),
Tribal Environmental Watch Alliance (NM),
Environmental Patriots of the New River Valley (VA),
Fort Ord Environmental Justice Network (CA),
Defense Depot Memphis Tennessee -- Concerned Citizens Committee (TN),
Southwest Workers Union (TX),
Arkansas Sierra Club (AK),
Physicians for Social Responsibility Wisconsin (WI)
and many more.
Note: The campaign has also been endorsed by Environmentalists Against War.
The Final Letter to the EPA
Has Been Posted Online at:
For more information, contact:
Laura Olah, Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB), WI (608) 643-3124
Brian A. Salvatore, Ph.D., Professor of Chemistry, Louisiana State University-Shreveport, LA (318) 797-5224
Dolores Blalock, ArkLaTex Clean Air Network, LA (318) 583-0254
Laura Olah is the Executive Director of Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB), E12629 Weigand's Bay South, Merrimac, WI 53561. (608) 643-3124. firstname.lastname@example.org. www.cswab.org
Concern Grows over Method to
Dispose of M6 Propellant
The News-Star & The Associated Press
MINDEN, La. (January 10, 2015) -- Members of Louisiana's congressional delegation are asking the Environmental Protection Agency for assurances that the open burn method for artillery propellant planned at Camp Minden is safe.
Republican Rep. John Fleming told The News-Star that he and Republican Rep. Ralph Abraham and GOP Sen. David Vitter sent letters to the EPA asking for information about the burn method.
"We need to see the science behind it, especially now," said Fleming. "We have experts like (LSU-Shreveport chemistry Professor Brian A. Salvatore) who have described in detail the potential dangers, so we as a delegation have agreed to escalate our concerns to a higher level." Officials have said 15 million pounds of M6 propellant is stored at Minden.
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.
A subsequent Louisiana State Police investigation led to the discovery of the millions of pounds propellant now stored in 98 bunkers scattered at Camp Minden. M6 is used as an explosive propellant for launching artillery shells.
The EPA in August ordered the Army, which sold the M6 to Explo for demilitarization, to get rid of the material, and an agreement was signed last fall with the Louisiana Military Department.
No firm date has been set for the burning to begin other than the target timeframe of the first quarter of this year. Requests for proposals have been issued to enlist applications from contractors interested in carrying out the disposal. Officials estimate nearly 80,000 pounds of M6 would be burn daily in steel trays.
"Thousands of citizens are gravely concerned about the risks of the open burn. It is irresponsible of the EPA to push it through without local input when safe and efficient alternative disposal methods exist," Frances Kelley, with the citizen-led Louisiana Progress Action, said in a news release Thursday.
Controversy Heats Up over
Open Burn at Camp Minden
Greg Hilburn / The News-Star
(January 8, 2015) -- Growing concerns about the planned disposal of 15 million pounds of M6 propellant stored at Camp Minden through an open burn are spreading beyond Webster Parish as some environmental experts say the emissions could drift anywhere between the Red and Ouachita rivers and beyond.
Fourth District US Rep. John Fleming, R-Shreveport, 5th District US Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-Alto, and US Sen. David Vitter, R-La., turned up the heat on the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday to produce data proving the open burn method is safe.
"We need to see the science behind it, especially now," said Fleming, who said he and Vitter sent separate letters to the EPA asking for answers. "We have experts like (LSU-Shreveport chemistry Professor Brian A. Salvatore) who have described in detail the potential dangers, so we as a delegation have agreed to escalate our concerns to a higher level."
The Shreveport Times recently published a guest column from Salvatore, who said the disposal through open burning would cause "an enormous public health risk" across northern Louisiana. . . .
The EPA in August ordered the Army, which sold the M6 to Explo for demilitarization, to get rid of the material, and an agreement was signed last fall with the Louisiana Military Department. Burning is scheduled to begin this spring.
During a public meeting in November in Minden, EPA regional Superfund director Carl Edlund assured those in attendance the controlled open burn is the least expensive and safest way. He called it a standard approach that can be done safely with little impact to the environment.
The EPA stood by that analysis Thursday when contacted by Gannett Louisiana.
"We evaluated many other technologies in our effort to destroy the 15 million pounds of M6 propellant, however, due to the urgent need to dispose the material and recommendations from the US Army Explosive Safety Board we chose open burning as the disposal method," the agency responded in a written statement.
"The (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act) requirements are equivalent to National Environmental Protection Act requirements, therefore, an environmental impact statement for this time-critical emergency response is not needed," the statement continued.
"I'm not buying it," Fleming said. "My intuition tells me the issue here is money. If the EPA is working with the Army to do the cheapest method and not the safest method, I'll be very disappointed."
Bob Flournoy, an environmental toxicologist and former Louisiana Tech University professor, said the propellant should be destroyed through closed incineration.
"Sure, an open burn is cheap, but what are the health consequences?" he said. "I can tell you that trace amounts of chemicals made in Lake Charles have been found in the Ohio Valley.
"This open burn method, depending on the weather and winds, is going to impact not just Webster Parish, but all of northern Louisiana and probably parts of Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas."
Abraham said the EPA must provide definitive proof of the safety of an open burn to satisfy him.
"The EPA has not demonstrated for the people, nor has it demonstrated for me, that this burn is safe," Abraham said. "As a doctor, I know the harm some of these carcinogens can cause. The EPA must prove beyond a doubt that this burn will not release these dangerous toxins into the air, placing at risk the health and safety of people throughout North Louisiana.
"I know that the explosives in their current form are dangerous, and everyone was hopeful that a solution had been found to dispose of them safely. However, it's clear the EPA has many more questions to answer before proceeding with this burn. The explosives must be disposed of, but we must do so in a responsible, safe way."
A conference call Thursday that was to include Fleming, Vitter, state Rep. Gene Reynolds, D-Minden, and representatives from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and the EPA was canceled.
But Reynolds said he was able to schedule a meeting with Edlund and a handful of others -- among them Salvatore -- on the LSU-Shreveport campus Tuesday. Reynolds said the meeting will be private, but he will discuss its contents after it's over.
"I may not be able to stop (the burn), but I'm committed to try if the EPA can't provide definitive data showing this is safe," Reynolds said.
State Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, who represents Webster Parish, said he has "pleaded with the EPA to do an incineration burn. I worry when people are reluctant to provide scientific data," Adley said.
All of the state and federal politicians' have become more focused as concern from constituents has become louder and more vocal.
A Facebook group called Concerned Citizens of the Camp Minden M6 Open Burn already had more than 2,500 members late Thursday.
Frances Kelley of Shreveport and Louisiana Progress Action said more than 750 people have signed a petition asking Vitter and others "for a safe disposal of the explosives at Camp Minden."
Kelley said she is "gravely" concerned about the proposed open burn. "We want to protect the health and safety of ourselves and children and the future of economic development here," Kelley said.
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