Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant

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Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant
Active1942–1996
Now leased to commercial interests and used partly as Camp Minden, a training center of the Louisiana Army National Guard
CountryUnited States
RoleMunitions plant
Nickname(s)"The shell plant"
Websitehttp://www.jmc.army.mil/
Bolin Hall, still under tight security, is the former LAAP building most visible off U.S. Highway 80 west of Minden, Louisiana. Now headquarters for the Louisiana Army National Guard, the structure is named for the late Judge James E. Bolin.[1]

The Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant, formerly known as the Louisiana Ordnance Plant or as The Shell Plant, is an inactive 14,974-acre (60.60 km2) plant to load, assemble and pack ammunitions items. During production from 1942 to 1994, the Army disposed of untreated explosives-laden wastewater in on-site lagoons, contaminating soil, sediments and groundwater with hazardous chemicals. It is government-owned, contractor-operated facility located off U.S. Highway 80 in Webster Parish near Doyline between Minden and Bossier City, Louisiana. Part of LAAP is known as Camp Minden, a training center for the Louisiana Army National Guard. LAAP and Camp Minden have become nearly interchangeable terms, with most references to Camp Minden.

Location[edit]

The Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant 14,974-acre (60.60 km2) is a government-owned, contractor-operated (GOCO) facility located off U.S. Highway 80 in Webster Parish, Louisiana between Minden, Louisiana and Bossier City, Louisiana.

History[edit]

World War II, 1941-1945[edit]

At the beginning of 1939, the government imposed eminent domain to purchase land for the Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant (LAAP). Handled by the attorney Harvey Locke Carey of Shreveport, then with the United States Army Corps of Engineers,[2] completed the acquisition in 1941 even before the United States entered World War II.[3][4]

LAAP was completed in eleven months under the direction of the contractor, Silas Mason. At the time, the entire area was rural and thinly settled. In May 1942, eight production lines were opened. In December 1944, the number of employees peaked at 10,754, the month of the decisive Battle of the Bulge. In the summer of 1945 production ceased with V-J Day, and the plant was deactivated three months later. [5]

In the building of the plant, nine rural cemeteries in Webster and Bossier parishes came uniquely under the perpetual care of the United States government. Existing wooden grave markers were replaced with small concrete slabs without the names of the deceased listed on the markers. The cemeteries are Allentown, Crowe, Jim Davis, Keene, Knotttingham, Raine, Richardson, Vanorsdel, and Walker. Those interred are listed with dates of birth and death and occasionally with other information in a printed survey, but individuals cannot visit LAAP grounds to look for specific graves; none would be found by the names were such a search conducted. The Crowe and Richardson cemeteries have the greatest number of individual grave listings.[6]

Plant operations, 1951-1975[edit]

LAAP was restored to service during the Korean under Remington Rand in 1951, and employment reached 5,000 in 1953. LAAP included a metals forging and machining plant area known as the Y-Line Chromic Acid Etching Facility, which manufactured 155-mm projectiles.

The plant was activated once more during the Vietnam War in September 1961 by Sperry Rand, the contractor until 1975. It produced mines, shaped charges, fuzes, boosters, bombs, demolition blocks, projectiles, etc.[7] During this time there were two tragic accidental explosions in 1962 and again in 1968.[5] LAAP had 7,800 employees at the height of the Vietnam War in 1967.[8] The Army had four production areas for classified ammunitions.[9] While in operation, LAAP was like a town unto itself, with its own 20-bed hospital, fire department, telephone line, water wells, sewerage and lighting systems, roads, staff housing, and meal services. The facility was so large that many needed a map to find their way around the grounds. There were major safety and security programs with certain employees designated as "guards"; to prevent fires employees were forbidden to enter the plant with smoking materials in their possession.[5]

Among the plant managers during the Vietnam activation was retired United States Army Colonel Thomas L. Gaines (1901-1989), a native of Dickson County in western Tennessee who fought in both theaters of World War II, left the active military in 1956 and was the LAAP general manager from 1961 until August 1969. Gaines also held the national position of chief of ammunition manufacture for all twenty-six Army munitions plants scattered throughout the United States.[10]

James E. McMichael (1932-2009) served as the LAAP employment manager for a number of years. He was a former teacher/coach at the defunct Lowe Junior High School in Minden and an administrator in vocational technical education. Applicants selected had to pass a manual dexterity test.[11]

From 1975 until 1989, LAAP colloquially known as "the shell plant", was operated by Morton Thiokol, now Thiokol, which also managed the Longhorn Army Ammunition Plant near Marshall, Texas. In 1979, under manager Steve Shows, employment had shrunk to 1,700 people.[12] Production included 155-mm metal parts and LAP operations on M692,4.2 inch mortar, Ml07 LAP Composition B, M73 Grenade Assembly, and some 2.75 inch warheads.[7]

Later years, 1989-1992[edit]

When the government stopped buying the 4.2-inch mortar round of ammunition people were laid off.[13] Attrition continued; in March 1992, Shows announced that 332 employees would be dismissed in phases beginning on April 1.[14]

LAAP was the largest payroll provider in Webster Parish for many years. In 1990, it was one of fourteen active munitions plants in the United States, and had 1,400 employees,[when?] half involved in production. The plant pumped $36 million into the local economy. LAAP spent $37 million per year in the purchase of materials to produce mines, grenades, mortar, and artillery rounds.[15]

In 1993 LAAP began to seek commercial clients to lease partial use of the plant facilities.[16] In the mid-1990s, the property came under the management of Lea Hall Properties of Shreveport. In addition to the National Guard installation, the former LAAP is now leased to various commercial entities.[5]

Bayou Dorcheat Correctional Center, 2002- present[edit]

As of 2002, a $7.3 million state-of-the-art prison opened within LAAP, the Bayou Dorcheat Correctional Center, named for Dorcheat Bayou. Pushed to completion by former Webster Parish Sheriff Larkin T. Riser, the prison was constructed to house up to 340 prisoners. Because the land on which the center sits is former military property, Riser depended on then U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu to break through the federal regulations: "She was a real champion for us. She ... helped us get through everything that had to be done in Washington." In addition to the Dorcheat Center, the sheriff's department also has facilities for forty-five inmates on the top floor of the Webster Parish Courthouse in Minden.[17]

New facilities opened as Camp Minden, 2013[edit]

In December 2013, a $26 million facility to house three military units in more modern facilities opened at Camp Minden. The Armed Forces Reserve Center, visible from U.S. Highway 80, had been under planning and construction since 2008. It provides permanent, consolidated housing for the 1083rd Transportation Company, the 39th Military Police Company, and the 122nd Air Support Operations Squadron. More than three hundred soldiers and airmen were impacted by the new facility. As of 2013 a second project, a Regional Training Institute, was under construction.[18] The U.S. government funded the majority of the construction costs, the state provided $1 million, with another $6 million for infrastructure improvements.[18]

Environmental contamination[edit]

On March 31, 1989, LAAP was listed as a Superfund site on the National Priorities List.[19] The United States Environmental Protection Agency found that the ground water was contaminated by explosive wastes including cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine (RDX) and trinitrotoluene (TNT).[19]

On August 24, 2006, an explosion of the Explo Systems, Inc., site leased at Camp Minden, where bombs were disassembled and recycled led to the evacuation of six hundred pupils nearby but caused no injuries or fatalities.[20][dead link]

A large explosion on October 2012 of 15 million pounds of M6 propellant of the Explo Systems, Inc., site rocketed Camp Minden, shattering windows 4 miles away and created a 7,000-foot mushroom cloud contaminating the area.

In December 2012, police began to remove 2,700 tons of explosives haphazardly stashed in warehouses and in open air from the Explo Systems site leading to evacuations from nearby Doyline.[21] After materials had been relocated into buildings within Camp Minden, Explo Systems, Inc. filed bankruptcy, and in August 2013 abandoned the materials [9]

M6 propellant disposal[edit]

In July 2014, the EPA ordered the Army to clean up the site on the grounds, that the military should not have entrusted Explo Systems to handle such a large amount of the propellant. Three private firms, General Dynamics Corporation, Alliant Techsystems, and the Ashland, Inc., unit known as "Hercules" have been participating in the cleanup.[22] In October, 2014 EPA, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and the Army agreed to dispose of explosive M6 propellant by "open burn", in "prepared trays containing a shallow layer of the material, [as] has been used in other cleanu".[23]

In May 2015, EPA in conjunction with a Citizens' Advisory Group announced, that a contained burn system in the form of an incinerator would be used. The plan was to dismantle the incinerator and remove it after burns would be finished.[24] To oversee the cleanup, the EPA charged about $8 million on top of $1.2 million which the state of Louisiana had already paid.[25] In June 2015, Explo systems executives asked a state judge to throw out charges, because M6 was not classified as explosive in Louisiana.[26] The Army intended to dispose of the explosives through "open burns".

In June 2015, after months of public controversy, the Louisiana National Guard announced a contract had been awarded to remove millions of pounds of M6 propellant from Camp Minden. A contained burn unit was to be built. The initial $19 million contract could be increased to as much as $35 million to account for additional requirements set forth by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, which approved the cleanup.[27] The spokesman for the National Guard said that "Explosive Service International" of Baton Rouge, Louisiana was to oversee the operation. The company received notice from the Louisiana Office of State Procurement to begin work.[28]

Eventually a private facility in Colfax, Louisiana 95 miles south, operated by Clean Harbors was chosen. It is "the only commercial facility in the nation allowed to burn explosives and munitions waste with no environmental emissions controls."[29]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Louisiana Guard honors memory of leader, WWII veteran". dvidshub.net. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  2. ^ "Notes for Harvey Locke Carey". familytreemaker.genealogy.com. Archived from the original on February 20, 2015. Retrieved February 20, 2015.
  3. ^ "The Army Ammunition Management System" (PDF). United States Army. December 1, 1982. p. 52. Retrieved March 15, 2010.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ "$30 million Shell Plant for Minden", Minden Herald, June 6, 1941, p. 1
  5. ^ a b c d "The History of LAAP", lecture at Dorcheat Historical Association Museum, May 13, 2013
  6. ^ Clifford D. Cardin, Bossier Parish historian, "An In-Depth Study of the Cemeteries and Graves Located in the Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant near Minden, Louisiana", p. 4
  7. ^ a b Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant .n.d. Gobalsecurity.orgaccessed 24 July 2017
  8. ^ Minden Press-Herald, December 29, 1967, p. 1
  9. ^ a b Camp Minden, Site Background EPA, n.d. accessed 24 July 2017
  10. ^ "Services for Col. Gaines Saturday; Burial with Military Honors Monday", Minden Press-Herald, February 3, 1989, p. 1
  11. ^ "James E. McMichael". zoominfo.com. Retrieved May 28, 2013.
  12. ^ "Army Ammunition Plant under new management - Thiokol Corp.", Minden Press-Herald, January 3, 1975, p. 1
  13. ^ "LAAP must lay off 33", Minden Press-Herald, June 27, 1989, p. 1
  14. ^ "Layoffs announced at LAAP: 332 employees will be cut in phases beginning April 1, manager says", Minden Press-Herald, March 5, 1992, p. 1
  15. ^ "LAAP payroll one of Webster's largest", Minden Press-Herald, February 27, 1990, p. 3C
  16. ^ Bonnie Koskie, "LAAP contemplates commercial options", Minden Press-Herald September 15, 1993, p. 1
  17. ^ Josh Beavers (March 28, 2002). "Dorcheat Center Ready at Last". Minden Press-Herald. Retrieved September 18, 2014.
  18. ^ a b "New military facility opens at Camp Minden: Armed Forces Reserve Center provides space for more than 300 soldiers, December 4, 2013". Shreveport Times. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  19. ^ a b "Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant Superfund site progress profile". United States Environmental Protection Agency. Archived from the original on June 16, 2011. Retrieved March 15, 2010.
  20. ^ [1] The Guardian
  21. ^ "Tons of explosives found in US town". 3 News NZ. December 4, 2012.
  22. ^ "EPA orders Army to clean up explosives at Camp Minden". The Shreveport Times. July 18, 2014. Archived from the original on July 26, 2014.
  23. ^ Pat Culverhouse M6 propellant to be removed by open burn Minden Press-HeraldNovember 14, 2014, Specht Newspapers, Inc.
  24. ^ Zach Beaird (29 May 2015). "EPA offers Minden community more details on M6 disposal". Shreveport Times. Gannett Company. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  25. ^ Associated Press (21 May 2015). "Vitter, Fleming: EPA wants Camp Minden cleanup oversight pay". Shreveport Times. Gannett Company. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  26. ^ Associated Press (2 June 2015). "Company accused of improperly storing explosives at Camp Minden asks for charges to be thrown out". The Times Picayune. NOLA Media Group. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  27. ^ Bonnie Culverhouse, "EPA approves disposal of explosives at Minden", The Piney Woods Journal, Vol. 19, No. 1 (June 2015), p. 1
  28. ^ Michelle Bates (June 18, 2015). "Contract signed for M6 disposal at Camp Minden". Minden Press-Herald.
  29. ^ Abrahm Lustgarden Kaboom Town. The U.S. military burns millions of pounds of munitions in a tiny, African-American corner of Louisiana. ProPublica, July 21, 2017

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 32°33′31″N 93°23′54″W / 32.55861°N 93.39833°W / 32.55861; -93.39833