Sometimes WC thinks that the U.S. Army is, at best, an ambiguous ally to the United States. WC has written about the unbelievable mess on the Tanana Flats, southeast of Fairbanks. But as bad as that is, it doesn’t hold a candle to Webster Parish, Louisiana.
You see, the Army purchases more explosives – artillery shell propellant, in this case – than it needs. A lot more. In this instance, 18 million pounds more. And then it has to dispose of the explosive, degrading, dangerous hazmat.
At Webster Parish, in northwestern Louisiana, the Army contracted with Explo Systems, a private contractor, to dispose of the 9,000 tons of explosives. The hazmat included some explosives like TNT, but nearly all of it was M6 propellant. The stuff can spontaneously ignite, a risk that increases significantly over time. The longer is stored, the greater the risk of explosive ignition. The Environmental Protection Agency says it is the largest such stockpile – well, collection of ultra hazardous waste – in the country.
And then Explo Systems filed bankruptcy. And the 9,000 tons of explosives were allowed to rot in the rain. Now there is a major fight under way in Louisiana about how to dispose of the stuff. The Army wants to simply burn it; the neighbors worry about the chemicals that will be released into the atmosphere.
A recent Army report finds the situation is – if you will parson the phrase – becoming critical. And while the Army has received a reported ten proposals to destroy the stuff, the Army is also refusing to release any details, to the considerable annoyance of the neighbors. You’ll agree, WC thinks, they should have a voice in what is done. The Army reports it will take a month to evaluate the bids and proposals. It’s that same Army whose report says they are running out of time to decide; that if action isn’t taken, there will be a 19 million pound explosion.
Which takes WC back to Alaska. We know there are bunkers of explosives and explosive shells at various places in Alaska. What happens to the unused shells? What happens to the unused “propellant”? Is there an unused “stockpile” mouldering somewhere and, if so, where? More to the point, does the Army even know?