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Bombs in Our Backyard: Dangerous Pollutants in Military's Open-Air Burn Sites

December 15, 2017
Abrahm Lustgarten / ProPublica

The first results in a national effort to better measure the levels of contaminants released through the burning of munitions and their waste show elevated levels of lead, arsenic and other toxins. Washington appears to have significantly underestimated the amount of lead, arsenic and other toxic pollutants sent into the air from uncontrolled burning of hazardous waste at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant in Virginia. The plumes drift directly towards an elementary school and residents a little more than a mile away.


Dangerous Pollutants in Military's Open Burns
Greater Than Thought, Tests Indicate

Abrahm Lustgarten / ProPublica

(August 2, 2017) -- The federal government appears to have significantly underestimated the amount of lead, arsenic and other dangerous pollutants that are sent into the air from uncontrolled burning of hazardous waste at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant in Virginia, according to a draft of a long-awaited report compiled by researchers at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The report details results from air sampling done last September and October at the Radford plant above an open field where piles of waste from the manufacture of weapons explosives are set afire daily. The plumes drift directly towards an elementary school and residents a little more than a mile away, but the Army and regulators have long maintained that the pollution level is safe, based on its computer-modeled estimates.

Now, it turns out, some of those estimates were wrong.

The data shows that five substances were found at levels greater than the EPA's models had predicted, meaning that previous health-risk analyses completed by regulators for the burns at Radford did not fully take into account the potential exposure of the surrounding population.

Arsenic, a chemical element known to cause cancer and skin lesions, was found to be emitted at rates 37 times what the previous Radford burn permit estimated. Lead -- which can disrupt children's brain development -- was emitted at five times the level previously thought. Cadmium and silver were also present at levels higher than historical models had assumed.

The tests also detected levels of methyl chloride, a chemical used in refrigeration and manufacturing that is known to cause severe neurological effects, high heart rates and high blood pressure, at more than twice the levels previously thought.

The Radford tests are part of a national program to verify the mathematical emissions factors that are used in the permitting dozens of sites that burn similar materials, and so the findings could mean that pollution from the practice of open burning military waste has been underestimated across the country.

The EPA declined to make the researcher responsible for the data available for an interview, but sent a statement pointing out that the research was still in draft form and under active review. ProPublica was given the draft report by a person concerned about the health implications at Radford and other military sites where such burns are conducted.

The Army did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

ProPublica reported on the burn practices at Radford in July as part of an investigation into the environmental implications of the Department of Defense's handling of munitions and the hazardous waste associated with them.

Our investigation showed that the Defense Department and its contractors continue to burn explosives waste with no emissions controls at more than 50 sites across the country, utilizing a loophole in US hazardous waste regulations created on what was supposed to be a temporary basis for the Pentagon in the 1980s.

The burns are allowed by the EPA and state environment regulators based on permits that use computer models to estimate the rate of pollutant released and to calculate whether those emissions are going to make people sick. The burns at Radford, the single largest polluter in Virginia, have long been permitted based on analyses that showed they were safe.

But the actual emissions from the burns at Radford had never been previously measured. For the new research, the EPA, in cooperation with NASA and the Department of Defense, sampled the smoke plumes at Radford last year, gathering the first air samples of toxins released at the site since burning there began in the 1940s.

The report details chemicals measured by a drone flown through the smoke clouds directly above the burn site over the course of two weeks last fall, and provides the first ever confirmation that significant levels of volatile organic chemicals, including acetone, benzene and toluene -- all substances known to cause cancer -- are widely prevalent.

EPA officials stressed the good news in their draft findings: that the majority of pollutants measured, including aluminum and selenium, dioxin-like chemicals and volatile chemicals like benzene, were detected at levels less than what the computer models used for historical permits had estimated. The agency described the drone technology used to measure the plumes as "a significant advancement."

While the research is the first of its kind to take direct measurements of the pollutant plume at the burn grounds in Radford, it still does not attempt to measure exposure to those pollutants in the surrounding community, something that state regulators tell ProPublica would be accomplished by placing ambient air monitors at schools and other public places near the burn site. People living near the plant have unusually high rates of cancer, thyroid disease and other health problems and have raised questions about a link to open burns, but so far there's little evidence to prove or disprove this.

Perchlorate, a rocket fuel which has been recently detected in groundwater samples taken in the community surrounding the Radford plant, and which the Radford plant's former commander had told the Roanoke Times was detected in the new round of samples, is not listed as a detected pollutant in the draft report.

In July, Virginia environment regulators, who are charged with overseeing the plants' day-to-day operations, told ProPublica they were awaiting the sampling results to make a new risk assessment for the burn site as part of the process of renewing the Army's burn permit there, which expired in 2015. Virginia officials told ProPublica that they are evaluating the information and "have not reached any conclusions."

Abrahm Lustgarten covers energy, water, climate change and anything else having to do with the environment for ProPublica. Abrahm.Lustgarten@propublica.org

"Munitions, metals, plastics, chemicals, and even corpses, were burned by the US military in Iraq, Afghanistan, in massive craters known as 'burn pits.'

The US military burns millions of pounds of munitions
in a tiny, African-American corner of Louisiana.
The town's residents say they're forgotten in the plume

Abrahm Lustgarten / ProPublica

COLFAX, LOUISIANA -- Two years ago, the US military had an embarrassment on its hands: A stockpile of aging explosives blew up at a former Army ammunition plant in Minden, Louisiana, sending a cloud of debris 7,000 feet into the sky.

Local residents, alarmed by toxic contaminants from the accident, were nothing short of furious when they learned what the military intended to do with the 18 million of pounds of old explosives still remaining at the depot. The Army was set to dispose of the explosives through what are known as "open burns," processes that would result in still more releases of pollutants.

Facing an uproar, the Army turned to a familiar partner to help placate the residents of Minden: A private facility in Colfax, 95 miles south, operated by Clean Harbors, a longtime Defense Department contractor and one of the largest hazardous waste handlers in North America.

The Colfax plant is the only commercial facility in the nation allowed to burn explosives and munitions waste with no environmental emissions controls, and it has been doing so for the military for decades. And so while the Army ultimately commissioned a special incinerator to dispose of most of the Minden explosives, more than 350,000 pounds of them were shipped here. Over the ensuing months, the munitions were burned on the grounds of the plant, fueling raging fires that spewed smoke into the air just hundreds of yards from a poor, largely black community.

Beyond the story of the Minden explosives, the Clean Harbors facility here has become an important clearinghouse for military-related waste as the Department of Defense and its contractors struggle to deal with hazardous byproducts from weapons manufacturing and huge stockpiles of aging munitions.

For years, defense-related firms have burned this waste at their own facilities, stubbornly clinging to the practice even as it has been outlawed in parts of Europe and Canada. But the permits to do so have become harder to get, the terms less flexible, and, increasingly, the pollution unacceptable to surrounding communities. Clean Harbors offers a legal way to get rid of dangerous materials from a wide range of sites that can't or don't want to handle them on their own.

In 2015 alone, 700,000 pounds of military-related munitions and explosives were trucked to Colfax, where both Clean Harbors and the military have so far been able to outmaneuver a community with abundant concerns but little money, and even less political influence, to fight back.

The Department of Defense did not respond to questions regarding its use of the Clean Harbors burn facility in Colfax, or environmental concerns related to it.

That such material is being shipped anywhere appears to contradict the military's longstanding claim that these wastes are too dangerous to move, so they must be burned in the open where they were made or used.

Yet every year, military bases and defense contractors send munitions or other explosive material to Colfax, packing explosives into cardboard boxes, shuffling them onto 18-wheelers and driving them sometimes thousands of miles across the country.

Delivery manifests filed with Louisiana regulators detail the variety of materials: rocket fuel from a missile factory near Los Angeles; hand grenades from a munitions factory in Arkansas; detonating fuses from Cincinnati; solid propellant from an Aerojet Rocketdyne factory in Virginia; explosive lead from a North Carolina military aircraft factory; warhead rockets from a Lockheed Martin facility in Alabama.

Once received, they are burned on a set of 20 metal-lined pans on a parking-lot-like patch of concrete with "no risk to human health or the environment," according to Clean Harbor's senior vice president for compliance and regulatory affairs, Phillip Retallick.

The burns take place several times each day, and when they do, they turn parts of Colfax into a virtual war zone.

"It's like a bomb, shaking this trailer," said Elouise Manatad, who lives in one of the dozen or so mobile homes speckling the hillside just a few hundred yards from the facility's perimeter. The rat-tat-tat of bullets and fireworks crackles through the woods and blasts rattle windows 12 miles away.

Thick, black smoke towers hundreds of feet into the air, dulling the bright slices of sky that show through the forest cover. Manatad's nephew Frankie McCray -- who served two tours at Camp Victory in Iraq -- runs inside and locks the door, huddling in the dark behind windows covered in tinfoil.

Like most of the people who live there, Manatad and McCray find it difficult to believe the booms and clouds aren't also exacting some sort of toxic price.

Colfax is a rough-hewn, mostly black town of 1,532 people that hugs a levee separating it from the surging mud and wild alligators of the Red River. Fleeing former slaves once camped under thatched tents in the bayou, and a historic marker serves as a reminder that more than 150 "negroes" were once massacred here. Another monument, in the graveyard a few steps away, praises the three white men who also died, as "heroes … fighting for white supremacy."

Today the town amounts to a smattering of collapsing historic buildings peppered with two gas stations, a bait and tackle shop, a grocery, a hardware store and a pharmacy where locals gab around a lone red 50s-era diner table with 10-cent cups of coffee. Ever since highways replaced the river barges it's been difficult to build an economy here, and the average Colfax resident earns about $13,800 each year.

"We might be a little bit woodsy," said Terry Brown, whose family moved to Colfax in 1817 and who now represents the area in the Louisiana Legislature. "And even though we live in a predominantly black community, when they cut their finger it still bleeds red. And we want a clean environment."

Last November, state environment officials parked an air monitoring van on Bush road a few doors down from Elouise Manatad's trailer. Manatad says they never told her what they were doing or what they'd found, but lab samples obtained from the state show environmental regulators detected notable levels of acrolein, a highly toxic vapor commonly associated with open burns of munitions.

A division of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes acrolein as having a "suffocating odor" and causing severe respiratory problems and heart attacks -- even at low doses and for as long as 18 months after exposure.

The lab reports also showed low levels of other volatile organic compounds, including benzene, known to cause cancer, and which the World Health Organization warns has "no safe level of exposure."

Soil, groundwater and stream beds sampled on the Clean Harbors site over the past few months have also been found to contain an array of extremely harmful substances likely connected with the burning of munitions waste.

Underground water supplies sampled this spring show perchlorate, a type of rocket fuel, at more than 18 times Louisiana's trigger levels for additional screening and eight times greater than what California, which sets stringent regulatory limits on perchlorate in groundwater, permits.

RDX and HMX, both military explosive compounds, were also detected. Soil tested near the fence line of the facility contained dioxin -- a chemical that builds up in fish and affects the human immune, reproductive and nervous systems -- at three times the limits that trigger a state safety review. Silt scraped from a stream bed that runs toward the plant's fence line and a nearby farm contained lead at nearly four times the level that triggers additional state screening.

State inspections also found Clean Harbors in violation of a number of regulations, including handling hazardous waste in unpermitted ways, failing to make repairs to its burn pads, and discharging unauthorized pollutants in violation of its state water permit.

The burn facility first opened in Colfax more than 30 years ago, and Clean Harbors acquired it in 2002 from a company named Safety-Kleen. Retallick says today it's a squeaky-clean operation, and he dismisses the contaminant findings.

The acrolein and benzene were caused by something other than the facility -- probably truck traffic or barbeque fires, he said, noting they were detected in background levels the state measured on days without burning. The other contaminants are either contained within the 740-acre Clean Harbors property, or exist at such low concentrations they don't pose a risk.

"The dose makes the poison, and the dose is concentration over time," he said, adding that Clean Harbors maintains that its explosives are entirely consumed in the fires. "The community just doesn't understand the chemistry of toxic substances in the air, water and land."

"I think their perception of risk has not been borne out by the studies that have been done which show that the risk is not there."

State health department officials bolstered this view when they analyzed the air sampling data -- including the acrolein and benzene -- and concluded in February that though the findings are "based on a small number of air samples collected over a short period of time and may not reflect actual long-term exposures … the results do not indicate a likelihood of adverse health effects."

State environmental officials are still analyzing the water and soil samples, including the dioxin and lead detections, and but told ProPublica that they expect that by the time those concentrations are likely to be ingested by people, they would be so diluted as to pose no threat.

"The groundwater is restricted to a relatively small area buried within the heart of the facility," said Gregory Langley, a spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. The state is pressing Clean Harbors to correct that pollution on its site, but still, he characterized the findings as "not much of concern" to the surrounding residents.

The local Clean Harbors office here in Colfax is located in a double-wide trailer just outside of town. Inside the trailer, a map of the United States hangs on one wall, with strings pinned from at least 42 locations across 22 states, representing US military facilities or defense contractors that ship explosive-laden waste here.

Clean Harbors, based in Massachusetts, won't say how much the Pentagon pays it to burn its explosives, but it's likely just a sliver of the company's continent-spanning business, which brought in $2.7 billion in revenues in 2016.

In a normal year, Retallick said, defense-related waste may account for less than a third of the Colfax plant's business. He blames the controversial offloading of explosives from the Army at Minden for disturbing the company's otherwise low profile.

"For 30 years, nobody cared about us and we suddenly became a hot topic," he lamented. "We became a convenient target."

Many of the black residents living close to the plant see the history differently. They say they have for years harbored concerns over their health. Manatad suffers from recurring strokes and respiratory infections. She says at least five of her neighbors have thyroid disorders, a condition that has been linked to exposure to perchlorate. Residents gossip about former burn facility employees who died of cancer.

When the Minden shipments began, out-of-town activists who opposed the large-scale explosives burns in the northern part of the state came to Colfax and found an organized, vocal audience among the community's leaders.

On a recent morning, down the hill from Manatad's trailer and closer to a more moneyed part of Colfax, the dewy air was thick with the smell of firecrackers. Burns from the plant left a dark stain across the sky.

In a modest ranch house surrounded by acres of close-cropped green lawn, a mostly white crowd -- schoolteachers and parish commissioners and farmers -- discussed how to stop the open burning at the Clean Harbors site. The meeting began with a prayer around a circle. A man's shirt read, "Stop the burns. Refuse to be Collateral Damage."

"This is a license to print money. I'm tired of these people," said one woman, Dolores Blalock. "Dumb Yankee carpetbaggers. … They don't need to be running explosives through this state."

Some at the meeting, including its host, also suffer from thyroid disorders, and they've pressed for months for tests of the air and water around the plant, and for Clean Harbors to install an incinerator to contain the smoke. "They told us they weren't breaking any laws and they didn't want to spend the money," said Wilma Subra, an activist and environmental scientist who often takes up Louisiana contamination concerns.

Brown, the state representative, says he doesn't believe Clean Harbors would have remained here all these years if Colfax weren't an undereducated, low-income community. Last year, short on patience, Brown took what seemed like the only remaining step: He sponsored a bill to ban open burning of hazardous waste in Louisiana outright. "Overwhelmingly, people were in favor of it," he said.

The legislation, though, drew Louisiana's chemical industry out of hiding. The state's business groups warned about losing jobs. Clean Harbors brought in executives from across the country who showed pictures of freshly painted burn pads, with flowers and cut grass, Brown said. "They hired a big, very powerful lobbying firm to lobby against the bill, and I began to see people drop out one by one."

Then, said Brown, "They brought the brass." A high-ranking officer from Louisiana's Fort Polk -- which also burns explosives with its own federal hazardous waste permit -- came to Baton Rouge with a team of lawyers and public relations professionals. They argued that the burns were part of essential training for US soldiers whose lives would be on the line in Iraq if they didn't know how to detonate their munitions.

"You have to be able to carry out the training mission," said Stanley Rasmussen, director of the Army's environment and energy office for a nine-state region including Louisiana, who met with legislators over the bill, and confirmed the account to ProPublica.

There is no bigger heavyweight in Louisiana than the Department of Defense. It drives much of the state's economy and employs more than 80,000 people. The Army lined up against Brown's bill, demanding an exemption. It got what it wanted: Brown, relenting, drew up an amendment permitting the military to continue to burn if the bill passed. "I knew if I didn't have the military," said Brown, "I would lose everybody." But the tide had already turned.

Clean Harbors spent 60 days with legislators in Baton Rouge arguing, as Retallick put it, "to help them understand the science." The company offered to pay for a sewer infrastructure project in Grant Parish, which Brown declined. (Retallick said Brown asked for it, then declined.) Clean Harbors also offered to install fence line air monitoring systems at its facility in Colfax, which the state accepted, and it has recently put in. (Environmentalists say the monitoring will miss the black smoke they see floating high in the air).

Ultimately, the company seemed to convince the legislature that Brown's concerns were irrational.

"I think he got ahead of himself a little bit in terms of stating his position," said Retallick. "Maybe they just didn't understand all the details of what we did there."

Neither the Louisiana Chemical Industry Alliance nor representatives from Southern Strategies, the lobbying firm hired by Clean Harbors, responded to requests for comment for this story.

In Colfax, the fight endures. The state is pressing for more water and air samples. It is threatening Clean Harbors with sanctions for some of its violations. Its health department has promised to continue watching the issue. But almost nobody -- especially Manatad and others living pressed up against the Clean Harbors fence line -- expects officials to force Clean Harbors to stop burning altogether.

"I'm pretty sure if they was living in an environment like this they wouldn't be pleased either, because it's not safe," said Annie Tolbert, 80, resting from the heavy heat in her fenced-in porch. Tolbert takes a puff of steroids from an inhaler, prescribed for her severe asthma. "They are not going to listen to us because we are black."

"But we are citizens, too."

Abrahm Lustgarten is a senior environmental reporter, with a focus at the intersection of business, climate and energy.
Nina Hedevang, Razi Syed, Clare Victoria Church, students in the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute graduate studies program, contributed reporting for this story. Other students in the program who also contributed were Alex Gonzalez, Lauren Gurley, Alessandra Freitas, Emma Cillekens and Eli Kurland.

The Deadly Legacy of Pentagon Burn Pits
The Verge (October 28, 2013
Toxic Fires Across the Country
Military Sites Burn Hazardous Waste Into Open Air

Hilary Fung, Abrahm Lustgarten and Lena Groeger / ProPublica

(July 20, 2017) -- Virtually every day, the Department of Defense and its contractors burn and detonate unused munitions and raw explosives in the open air with no environmental emissions controls, often releasing toxins near water sources and schools. The facilities operate under legal permits, but their potentially harmful effects for human health aren't well researched, and EPA records obtained by ProPublica show that these sites have violated their hazardous waste permits thousands of times. Related story.

At Least 61 Sites Active Today
Most active sites, which currently burn or detonate waste into open air, are run by the military and its contractors, according to the EPA and the Pentagon. The Radford Army Ammunition Plant in Virginia, for example, supplies explosives for almost every American bullet fired overseas and is allowed to burn up to 2.9 million pounds of waste every year. The EPA has found Radford in violation of its hazardous waste permits at least 50 times in the past 37 years, for reasons such as mishandling or mischaracterizing its explosive waste, violating standards for its incinerators and improperly monitoring groundwater.

Many Sites Closed or Abandoned,
But Still Potentially Harmful

Many of these open-burn sites have been closed or converted to other uses, but many were not properly cleaned. Fort Wainwright in Alaska, for example, accumulated at least 63 violations and is facing corrective action for improper cleaning and closure, according to the EPA.

Superfund Sites
Some of the above sites are also Superfund sites, designating them as among the nation's most environmentally contaminated sites with the highest cleanup priorities. Based on EPA data, ProPublica has identified at least 35 burn sites with Superfund status, and half of those sites are still active. The total number of Superfund sites may be as high as 54, according to sources in the EPA.

Source: Environmental Protection Agency; Department of Defense; Satellite image by Google Earth.

Nina Hedevang, Razi Syed and Alex Gonzalez, students in the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute graduate studies program, contributed reporting for this story. Other students in the program who also contributed were Lauren Gurley, Clare Victoria Church, Alessandra Freitas and Eli Kurland.

Notes: The data identifying burn sites was compiled internally by EPA staff, and obtained by ProPublica from sources within the agency. ProPublica obtained additional records of violations at these burn sites from 1980 to 2017, identified by their federal hazardous waste permits, through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The violation data appears to address the overall handling of hazardous and explosive materials at these sites, not only their burn operations. The EPA declined to answer questions about either list, to confirm the status of the sites listed or to explain them further.

ProPublica also obtained a list of active burn sites from the Department of Defense. In cases where the DOD listed a site's status as active and the EPA did not, we used the DOD status.

Two active sites in US territories and 10 other sites with unclear or unknown statuses are not displayed. Two other sites, Cornhusker Army Ammunition Plant in Nebraska and Joint Base Cape Cod in Massachusetts, came up in our reporting but were not listed by the EPA and are therefore not displayed.

One Year, One Facility, 1.7 Million Pounds of
Hazardous Waste Burned in Open Air

Lylla Younes and Abrahm Lustgarten / ProPublica

(July 21, 2017) -- At least 61 active burn and denotation sites currently operate in the US Most are run directly by the Department of Defense or its contractors, and do not publicly report what they burn. ProPublica obtained the delivery manifests for the only burn site that is commercially licensed and allowed to accept explosives from off-site, run by a company called Clean Harbors in Colfax, Louisiana.

In 2015, the site received more than 1.7 million pounds of hazardous explosives waste from across the country -- from the US military as well as from commercial users like Disney, which sends unexploded fireworks to the facility to be destroyed. Here's what the facility burned or detonated that year.

View By:
Type of Hazardous Waste and Company of Origin

82 Pb Lead

56 Ba Barium

48 Cr Chromium

24 Cd Cadmium

33 As Arsenic



Fireworks 217.6K lbs

Explosive Tritonal Substances 136.0K lbs

Explosive Substances With Magnesium 123.3K lbs

Liquid Water Reactive, Toxic By Inhalation 122.6K lbs

Explosive Substances With HMX and RDX 73.4K lbs

Rocket Motors 69.0K lbs

Detonators For Ammunition 63.9K lbs

Solid Propellant 56.7K lbs

Explosive Substances 43.7K lbs

Shaped Commercial Charges Without Detonator 43.3K lbs

Empty Cartridge Cases With Primer 42.4K lbs

Explosive Substances With HMX and PBXN 34.1K lbs

Extruded Contaminated Aluminum Explosive Substances 33.0K lbs

Explosive Articles With Zirconium Potassium Perchlorate 31.5K lbs

Explosive Substances With Lead Powder 29.2K lbs

Aerial Flares 28.7K lbs

Explosive Substances With Fireworks 24.1K lbs

Detonating Fuses 22.1K lbs

Explosive Articles 20.1K lbs

Cartridges For Power Devices 17.7K lbs

Incendiary Ammunition With or Without Burster Expelling 15.0K lbs

Smoke Signals 14.4K lbs

Explosive Substances With Debris Contaminated With Trito 14.4K lbs

Cartridges For Intert Projectile Weapons 14.2K lbs

Propelling Charges For Cannon 13.5K lbs

Explosive Substances With Black Powder HMX 12.7K lbs

Ammunition Smoke 11.7K lbs

Detonating Fuse With Mild Effect 11.5K lbs

Explosive Substances With Extruded Contaminated Aluminum 11.3K lbs

Wetted RDX 11.3K lbs

Explosive Substances With Tritonal Aluminum 10.2K lbs

Insensitive Explosive Substances 10.1K lbs

Explosive Substances With Debris HMX 9.3K lbs

Explosive Substances With Smokeless Powder Waste 9.3K lbs

Explosive Substances With Nitrocellulose 8.8K lbs

Shaped Charges Without Detonator 8.8K lbs

Explosive Substances With Ammonium Perchlorate 7.7K lbs

Desensitized Liquid Flammable Nitroglycerin Mixture 7.3K lbs

Explosive Substances With Smokeless Powder 7.0K lbs

Boosters Without Detonator 7.0K lbs

Wetted Lead Azide 6.6K lbs

Explosive Articles With Zirconium Titanium Andboronpo 6.5K lbs

Explosive Substances With Pyrotechnic Diesel, Shipped In Water 6.3K lbs

Explosive Substances With Smokeless Lead Powder 5.2K lbs

Explosive Substances With Aluminum Ammonium Perchlorate 4.9K lbs

Explosive Substances With Magnesium Barium Nitrate 4.8K lbs

Smokeless Powder 4.7K lbs

Desensitized HMX 4.4K lbs

Explosive Substances With Reactive Material 4.2K lbs

Explosive Articles With Magnesium Powder and Potassium 4.2K lbs

Explosive Articles With Zirconium Waste Soap Mixture 4.1K lbs

Explosive Substances With 24 Dinitroanisole Nitroguan 3.9K lbs

Explosive Articles With Nitrocellulose 3.8K lbs

Explosive Substances With TEGDN 3.7K lbs

Explosive Articles With Titanium Potassium Perchlorate 3.7K lbs

Cartridges For Weapons With Bursting Charge 3.7K lbs

Explosive Substances With Nitroguanidine 3.5K lbs

Pentolite 3.5K lbs

Pyrotechnic Seatbelt Pretensioners 3.5K lbs

Black Powder 3.2K lbs

Flammable Organic Solids With Trash and Contaminated Debris 3.2K lbs

Explosive Substances With DDNP 2.9K lbs

Ammonium Nitrate Emulsion 2.8K lbs

Desensitized Cyclotetrametheyl - Enetetranitramine 2.7K lbs

Desensitized RDX 2.6K lbs

Safety Devices 2.6K lbs

Shaped Charges 2.6K lbs

Explosive Substances With Smokeless Powder Paper Towels 2.6K lbs

Toxic Flammable Compressed Gases 2.3K lbs

Explosive Substances With Debris Powder 2.3K lbs

Explosive Substances With Uncured Waste 2.3K lbs

Explosive Substances With Oil Absorbant Contaminants 2.2K lbs

Explosive Substances With Inert PETN 2.1K lbs

Detonating Fuses With Protective Features 2.0K lbs

Flammable Inorganic Solid With Magnesium Zirconium 1.9K lbs

Ammonium Perchlorate 1.9K lbs

Non-Electric Detonator Assemblies For Blasting 1.9K lbs

Explosive Articles With Boron Potassium Nitrate Zircon 1.9K lbs

Explosive Substances With Smokeless Powder Tape Paper 1.9K lbs

Explosive Substances With Black Powder Magnesium 1.8K lbs

Explosive Substances With HMX Aluminum Powder 1.7K lbs

Air Bag Inflators / Air Bag Modules / Seatbelt Pretension 1.6K lbs

Detonating Cord 1.6K lbs

Explosive Substances With Magnesium Paper 1.6K lbs

Desensitized Liquid Explosive With Ethylacetate Hexani 1.6K lbs

Explosive Substances With High Explosives RDX and HMX Ch 1.6K lbs

Wetted RDX and HMX Mixtures 1.5K lbs

Boosters Without Oetona Tor 1.5K lbs

Explosive Substances With Smokeless Powder Lead 1.5K lbs

Explosive Substances With Black Powder Smokeless Powder 1.5K lbs

Cap Type Primers 1.4K lbs

Explosive Substances With Debris gloves floor Sweep Rd 1.4K lbs

Explosive Substances With Boron Potassium Nitrate 1.4K lbs

Explosive Substances With Aluminum and Ammonium 1.4K lbs

Explosive Substances With Black Powder Debris 1.4K lbs

Toxic Flammable Diborane Compressed Gases 1.4K lbs

Explosive Substances With Magnesium Teflon 1.3K lbs

Flexible Linear Shaped Charges 1.3K lbs

Explosive Substances With Fireworks and Water 1.3K lbs

Non-projectile Tool Cartridges 1.2K lbs

Hand Signal Devices 1.1K lbs

Rocket Warheads With Bursting Charge 1.1K lbs

Explosive Substances With RDX and HMX 1.1K lbs

Explosive Substances With Ammonium Potassium perchlorate 1.1K lbs

Explosive Substances With Octol Compb 1.0K lbs

Explosive Articles With HMX 1.0K lbs

Jet Perforating Guns Charged Oil Well Without Detonator 1.0K lbs

Explosive Substances With Diesel Potassium Nitrate 1.0K lbs

Explosive Substances With Azide Lead Styphinate N 1.0K lbs

Explosive Substances With Azide Lead 975 lbs

Explosive Waste Substances 950 lbs

Explosive Release Devices 940 lbs

Explosive Articles With Potassium Perchlorate Magnesium 936 lbs

Explosive Articles With Aluminum Perchlorate 915 lbs

Explosive Substances With HMX 911 lbs

Flammable Organic Solids With Flammable Solids 907 lbs

Explosive Articles With Cyclotetramethyl- Enetetrani 891 lbs

Pyrotechnic Air Bag Inflators 875 lbs

Explosive Substances With Aluminum Powder HMX 845 lbs

Flammable Metal Powders With Copper Oxide 819 lbs

Explosive Substances With Aluminum Perchlorate 818 lbs

Explosive Cable Cutters 810 lbs

Non-projectile Weapon Cartridges 782 lbs

Explosive Substances With Propellant Scrap Trash 765 lbs

Explosive Substances With Acrylic Acid Polymer Ammonium 759 lbs

Igniters 735 lbs

Barium Nitrate 720 lbs

Wetted PETN 700 lbs

Inert Projectiles With Tracer 689 lbs

Desensitized Solid Explosive With Rs Sheets 680 lbs

Projectiles With Bursting Charge 675 lbs

Explosive Substances With Perchlorate Trash Debris 675 lbs

Explosive Articles With HMX and PETN 640 lbs

Flexible Detonating Cord 627 lbs

Explosive Blasting Type D 619 lbs

Hexolite or Hexotol Dry or Wetted With Less Than 15 Percent 614 lbs

Propelling Charges 606 lbs

Explosive Substances With Barium Smokeless Powder 606 lbs

Explosive Train Components With DDNP Plugs 571 lbs

Explosive Articles With Black Powder HNS 550 lbs

Pyrotechnic Air Bag Modules 500 lbs

Explosive Substances With Lead Thiocynate 500 lbs

Source: Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality 2015 Hazardous Waste Report; Clean Harbors

Nina Hedevang, Razi Syed, Clare Victoria Church, students in the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute graduate studies program, contributed reporting for this story. Other students in the program who also contributed were Alex Gonzalez, Lauren Gurley, Alessandra Freitas and Eli Kurland.

Notes: Colfax also received 1,488 other shipments in 2015 that weighed less than 500 pounds each. Due to the low quantity, they are not displayed.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.




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