A delegation of Webster Parish community and business leaders today met with Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment in the Washington D.C. offices of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu to discuss the cleanup of the more than 15 million pounds of W-6 propellant abandoned by the Explo Company at Camp Minden.
Last month, the Minden South Webster Chamber of Commerce and other local leaders sent a letter to Landrieu urging her to work with to bring the Army to the table to commit funding for the Camp Minden cleanup. Read the letter sent to Sen. Landrieu.
“When I was asked by several local leaders to work and bring all parties involved in this issue to sit down and work toward a solution to cleanup and dispose of propellant at Camp Minden, I was happy to help,” Landrieu said. “Today was the beginning of getting these discussions to move in the right direction.”
Attending the meeting from Louisiana were state Rep. Gene Reynolds (D-Minden); Webster Parish Police Jury President Jim Bonsall; Jerri de Pingre’ of the Minden Chamber of Commerce; and Peggy Hatch from Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. Also attending the meeting were Major General Glenn Curtis, Major General Stephen Dabadie, Major Dirk Thibodeaux, Col. Ronnie Stuckey of the Louisiana National Guard and state Rep. Jeff Thompson (R-Dist. 8).
Today’s meeting in Landrieu’s office was the first time the Army met face-to-face with state and local leaders to discuss a solution to cleaning up the explosive materials at Camp Minden.
“I believe the Army came to realize a sense of urgency we face at Camp Minden and being able to communicate that is a positive. I appreciate Sen. Landrieu getting the Army to meet with us,” said Reynolds, whose district encompasses 85 percent of Camp Minden. The other 15 percent is in the district represented by state Rep. Henry Burns (R-Dist. 9). Burns did not attend the meeting due to other committee obligation.
“I was pleased to be part of today's meeting that included the Army for the first time. I was able to underscore and explain to the Army the economic impact that Camp Minden has had, does have, and will have. But until this propellant is cleaned up, we cannot move forward. The Army should know that this is a safety issue and also an economic issue. I commend Sen. Landrieu on her continued efforts to secure funding for the cleanup at Camp Minden,” said Jerri de Pingre’, president and CEO of the Minden South Webster Chamber of Commerce.
“Working with Sen. Landrieu, we continue to move forward with all parties involved to reach a resolution that's so important to Northwest Louisiana. The state agencies want to get this addressed,” said Peggy Hatch, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.
“The Louisiana National Guard is encouraged by today's meeting and the Army's growing involvement. We appreciate Sen. Landrieu using her leadership to serve Camp Minden and bringing the Army to the table with us to fully communicate our concerns and find a solution to get the situation resolved,” said Major General Stephen Dabadie of the Louisiana National Guard.
“This isn't a Republican issue or a Democrat issue,” said state Rep. Jeff Thompson (R-Bossier). “This is a Louisiana issue, and I truly appreciate Sen. Landrieu using her position and office to get the Army to the table for the first time today. Camp Minden holds great potential for our region as an economic engine, and this is a good step forward to turn the engine on and keep our communities safe.”
The Strategic Action Council of Northwest Louisiana (NWLA) sent a letter praising Landrieu for her efforts, “We commend you for your continued efforts for the clean-up of M-6 propellant at Camp Minden… Camp Minden’s further growth and economic contribution to our northwest Louisiana region depends on a successful clean-up effort.”
Landrieu thanked Giles for meeting and listening to the concerns of state and local leaders about the necessity of the Army to take responsibility for this cleanup, calling the the EPA’s order “an important step toward removing these dangerous materials from Camp Minden.”
Just Wednesday, Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, gave the U.S. Army until July 26, 2014 to comply with an order to cleanup explosive materials at Camp Minden.
On March 18, 2014, the EPA issued a Unilateral Administrative Order to the Army requiring them to cleanup the more than 15 million pounds of M-6 propellant at Camp Minden.
After hearing comments from the Army about the order, the EPA informed the Army the order will become official Monday. “After full and fair consideration of the points raised by the Army in the conference and written materials, I conclude that the management of hazardous and solid waste at Camp Minden may present an imminent and substantial endangerment, and that the Order issued is necessary and appropriate to abate the endangerment,” wrote Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator at the EPA.