Authorities said Tuesday that they’ve raised their estimate of the amount of improperly stored material at an explosives recycling company that was blamed for the evacuation of a Louisiana town.
Louisiana State Police spokesman Matt Harris said Tuesday that authorities estimate 10 million pounds of a military propellant called M6 was haphazardly stored at Explo Systems Inc. The previous estimate was 6 million pounds.
The M6 was discovered by a Louisiana State Police investigator who was looking into an explosion in October involving a different kind of material at Explo’s facility at Camp Minden, a Louisiana National Guard base east of Shreveport.
Authorities said M6 was found in overflowing containers and “hidden” among trees on the base.
The nearby town of Doyline was evacuated for a week in December because of concerns that any ignition – such as a lightning strike or a brush fire – could set off a massive chain-reaction blast.
Most of the M6 has been moved into bunkers on the base, but Harris said authorities are still looking for somewhere to house 3.5 million pounds that is in buildings. Harris stressed that the number is an estimate and could change. He also said the M6 is tested periodically and is stable.
Explo Systems officials have not responded to numerous messages.
Louisiana state Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City, said recently that the state House Homeland Security Committee will meet Thursday in Baton Rouge to discuss Explo Systems.
“My duty is to make sure the taxpayers don’t get stuck with the bill for the cleanup and evacuation,” Thompson said.
The M6 comes from devices that are used by the military to propel artillery rounds.
The Army gave Explo a $2.9 million annual contract in March 2010 to dismantle up to 450,000 of the devices a year and sell the components.
When Explo Systems was trying to get the Army contract, it said it had plenty of storage space for the material and the contacts to sell it quickly, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request.
A technical proposal to the Army on Jan. 21, 2010, said Explo had “storage capacity for more than 70 million pounds of explosive material between our Louisiana and Kentucky storage locations.”
Louisiana authorities have confirmed that Explo rented enough bunker space for 10 million pounds of material, but some of that space is taken up by other kinds of explosives.
A Kentucky state official said Explo Systems did not have permits to store explosives in that state.
The M6 was to be sold for coal mine blasting, but demand is down and the material piled up at Explo’s facility.
The company asked to lease more space at the base in early 2012, but was turned down because it was about $400,000 behind on rent, the National Guard said.
After the discovery of the M6, the Guard let Explo Systems use an additional 22 bunkers, up from 78 it already had, but that still wasn’t enough to store it.
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