A broad coalition of 71 social and environmental justice organizations from across the U.S. is calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stop the proposed open air burning of 15 million pounds of abandoned M6 propellants at Camp Minden, Louisiana. In a joint letter today to EPA Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles, the groups support Louisiana residents, workers and families in their call for a safer alternative to possibly the largest open air munitions burn in the nation’s 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 countries. 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 U.S. 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), GreenARMY (LA), 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.
HOW YOU CAN HELP: Please contact your U.S. Congressional representatives and voice your support for SAFE alternatives to open burning toxic munitions wastes at Camp Minden, Louisiana.
WORT RADIO INTERVIEW: Brian A. Salvatore, Professor of Chemistry at Louisiana State University at Shreveport, and Dolores Blalock with the ArkLaTex Clean Air Network join Buzz host Jan Miyasaki to talk about the open burning of toxic military waste at Camp Minden in Louisiana. (January 14, 2015)