Authorities say they have run out of bunker space at a Louisiana military base for some of the millions of pounds explosives that caused a town's evacuation after the material was found haphazardly stored at an explosives recycling company.
Sheriff Gary Sexton in Louisiana's Webster Parish told The Associated Press on Thursday that authorities are searching for more bunker space to store the military explosives that the company was hired to demilitarize. He said the material may have to be moved out of state.
Authorities have already moved more 6 million pounds of explosives, much of it into bunkers at Camp Minden, a Louisiana National Guard base, following an explosion in October triggered an investigation of Explo Systems Inc.
Explo Systems rents space at the sprawling base for its business and had a contract with the Army to demilitarize a military propellant called M6, which is used for artillery rounds.
The nearby town of Doyline was evacuated for about a week in December because authorizes feared any explosion could trigger a massive chain reaction blast.
Louisiana State Police Spokesman Matt Harris said Thursday that officials don't want to speculate on how much more material needs a proper storage facility, but there's enough that more bunkers are needed.
Sexton said the remaining material could still be packaged for sale, which authorities are encouraging. Any material the company sells is less that Louisiana officials will have to deal with.
"Weather has been a factor, but space is the number one factor," Sexton said.
When authorities found what they consider improperly stored material, some of it was in boxes stacked in buildings with other boxes packed into long corridors that connect those buildings.
Authorities feared that ignition of any of the propellant could cause a chain reaction that would race through the corridors and blow up multiple buildings, threatening Doyline and its 800 residents. The town's voluntary evacuation order in December kept children out of school and sent some people to live at camp sites in a nearby state park.
More of the material was found outside among threes and appeared to have been "hidden," State Police spokeswoman Julie Lewis has said. Some of the containers were spilling open.
Lt. Col. Michael Kazmierzak, a Louisiana National Guard spokesman, has said Explo officials asked early last year to lease more space at the base but that the request was turned down because the company was roughly $400,000 behind on rent. He said the company never again brought up the need for more space, but worked out a plan to pay back rent.
Explo Systems officials haven't responded to numerous messages since the investigation began. An attorney who represented the company in the past declined to comment when a reporter visited his office in Shreveport, La.
The Army awarded Explo Systems a contract in 2010 to demilitarize hundreds of thousands of propelling charges for artillery rounds. The contract was for $2.9 million with options for renewal for four years. The contract called for the demilitarization of as many as 450,000 propelling charges per year. Demilitarizing explosives generally entails changing a device or chemical in a way that it can't be used for its originally intended purposes.
Stephen Abney, a spokesman for the Army's Joint Munitions Command, has said Explo requested on Nov. 27 that the government hold all shipments because Louisiana authorities would not allow them to receive it until inspections and investigations have been completed.
This isn't the first time the company has come under scrutiny.
A series of at least 10 explosions at the facility in 2006 caused an evacuation of Doyline.
The company also came under scrutiny in West Virginia where it was using an old military explosive called tetryl in mountaintop removal mining for Catenary Coal Co. in 2006 and 2007, according to documents reviewed by AP. A February 2007 blast injured one worker and exposed others to toxins, authorities said. Some of the tetryl dated back to 1940.
Explo had a contract to use the material for mining operations for the Catenary Coal Company in Eskdale, W.V., according to documents that AP obtained from the Army through a public records request.
That Army contract required the company to "comply with all applicable Federal, State, and local safety regulations and requirements" for the handling and disposal of hundreds of thousands of pounds of "various artillery boosters and fuze components."
But The Mine Safety and Health Administration said in report dated April 3, 2007 that Explo Systems "displayed a reckless disregard for the health and safety of miners and by giving no consideration to the mining laws applicable to these activities."
Explo Systems, which was registered in Louisiana in 2001, has made millions from contracts with the military. In 2011, the company listed its annual revenue as $3 million with 70 employees, according to the Federal Procurement Data System.
JUNE 17 If anyone ever wonders why Saints fans hate Atlanta with a capital H, here's a good indication. Radio "professionals" at an Atlanta station created an entire segment around making fun of former Saints player Steve Gleason, who is now paralyzed by ALS. Listen, nobody's ever accused DJs of being rocket scientists. But how could someone think it is amusing to pretend to ask a man with a degenerative, fatal disease if he will be alive next week? The DJs have been fired, and are now whining about how gutless their former bosses are. Wow.
JUNE 18 Here's the latest from the Advocate on the fatal hit-and-run accident allegedly involving the president of the Livingston Parish School Board. He's accused by police of hitting a 21-year-old man on a highway early Sunday and driving away. The man died at a hospital later. On Monday, police seized the president's truck and towed it away. But he's available for board meetings: apparently a $500 bond is sufficient for this type of thing over in St. Helena Parish.
JUNE 18 Former broadcast journalist Griffin Scott has posted this plea on his blog for financial assistance from his readers. Scott, who says he was fired after he wrote something fairly innocuous (for Facebook) on his wall, is suing a media giant for his job back. He's framed himself as David going after a bloated media giant, and he's probably not far off.
JUNE 18 Here's a fairly absurd column posted on DIG Magazine about the completely absurd practice of naming killer storms. Tornadoes don't have names. Blizzards don't have names. But hurricanes do, and there's a big process to bestow them, Jacques Cormery writes. He's right about the crazy assemblage of names -- this year, there's everything from Tanya to Humberto -- and his idea that we don't waste good names on killer storms is a good one.
JUNE 17 Political columnist John Maginnis has some advice for Louisiana Republicans: grow up. After the schism that occurred in this past session - fiscal hawks teaming up with Democrats to spank the Republican "majority" and hand Gov. Jindal his, er, aspirations for continued solon control -- they need to figure out how to get along with each other, Maginnis writes.
JUNE 17 Here's the Picayune's obit story for Dorothy 'Miss Dot' Domilise, the lady who made poboys at the uptown restaurant that bears her name. Miss Dot moved to New Orleans during World War II, where she met and married her husband Sam. When she passed away Friday she was 90, and had spent more than 60 of those years working at the restaurant on Annunciation Street.
JUNE 17 This editorial in the Advocate speaks in favor of the consent decrees that have federal judges overseeing police operations and the sheriff's parish prison in New Orleans. Mayor Landrieu and Sheriff Gusman can't get along, so outside forces, like the Inspector General and the judges, are needed to make sure things run right, the editorial opines.
JUNE 18 Here's a post from Manny Schewitz on Forward Progressives that is good for a chuckle. Manny had an epiphany back in November, and is sharing it with us today: he believes that Fox "News" is killing the GOP by pandering to right wing nuts. Now, don't get it twisted: Manny's not broke up about it. He says he enjoys watching the downward spiral with a shot of whiskey and "a schadenfreude chaser."
Frank’s Casing Crew, now doing business as Frank’s International, will make its final appearance on ABiz’s list of the Top 50 Privately Held Companies in Acadiana this year, and once again, it will likely be at the top with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. The 75-year-old company specializing in tubular fabrication and installation services to the oil and gas industry plans to go public this year.
The defeat, or rather highjacking of House Bill 420 in the final days of this year's Legislative Session, say Reps. Vincent Pierre and Terry Landry, is the result of the propaganda spread by one unidentified local media outlet and an unnamed former state Representative, but nothing to do with the original legislation's lack of checks, balances or details.
He’s a singer. A songwriter. A piano man. A family man. He’s even got his own Wikipedia entry. He’s David Egan. And he knows ancient secrets about the monolithic stones of Stonehenge that he’s not willing to share.