The Environmental Protection Agency is planning a burn that could release millions of tons of toxic chemicals two miles into the air over at least three states – and rural residents are outraged.
The agency wants to burn 15 million pounds of aluminum/TNT explosives currently stored at Camp Minden, a National Guard base in northern Louisiana.
The burning of M6 explosives could release chemicals that cancer, blood pressure problems, and birth defects critics allege. The EPA is also ignoring its own rules by refusing to create an environmental impact statement for the burn, an organization called Louisiana Watchdog is charging.
“Puzzlingly enough, officials with the Environmental Protection Agency, who otherwise won’t hesitate to force landowners to go through long, costly environmental impact statements, aren’t doing the same here,” Chris Butler of Louisiana Watchdog wrote. “Maybe it’s because this is one of the EPA’s own special projects.”
Shreveport resident Frances Kelley told Watchdog.org, “There have been people such as myself who completely trusted the EPA, but this has completely undermined our trust.”
Organic farmers in the area are among those opposing the burn. One of them is Evan McCommon, who owns Mahaffey Farms in Princeton, Louisiana. He raises livestock and grows vegetables 10 miles from the site.
“It’s a reputation thing. It’s like, ‘Oh yeah, well that farm is actually near a chemical burn.’ So, how are our costumers going to see that? I mean, it’s kind of ridiculous” McCommon told KSLA.
Another critic, Melissa Downer of Webster Parish, accused the EPA of having no regard for citizens’ safety.
“They think we’re just a little small area of some farmers or what not that aren’t even going to pay attention and notice and we can just get rid of this and burn it before they catch wind of it,” Downer said.
EPA officials are only planning to burn the explosives because they are stored in a rural area, former Louisiana Tech University professor and toxicologist Bob Flournoy alleged. Like Downer, Flournoy accused the EPA of not having any concern for rural residents.
“If they like it so much,” he told Watchdog, “why don’t they just burn it in Dallas or somewhere else and see what kind of flack they get?” Flournoy asked.
Camp Minden is located near Shreveport in Northwestern Louisiana, and government officials say the old military explosives, if left untouched, could be a threat to public health and safety. Critics say the explosives can be disposed of safely at the site.
Photographs show that the explosives are sitting out on the ground in cardboard boxes. An EPA memo indicates that the explosives have been leaking and contaminating soil, surface water and ground water for decades – and that they could explode. Some of the contamination may have occurred as long ago as 1989.
Three years ago, a storage bunker at Camp Minden exploded.
“The Army Explosives Safety Board has advised that deterioration of the propellants could greatly increase the risk of explosion by August 2015,” EPA Spokesman Joe Hubbard said of the explosives that remain at the site.
Do you believe the EPA should burn the explosives or try and dispose of them on site? Share your thoughts in the section below: