(TheBlaze/AP) — A town in northwest Louisiana has been turned on its head after authorities discovered a staggering 6 million pounds of improperly stored explosives that, according to the Associated Press, is sometimes used in howitzers and other artillery.
Boxes and small barrels of the M6 artillery propellant were found both outdoors and crammed into unauthorized buildings leased by Explo Systems Inc. at Camp Minden, a former Louisiana Army Ammunitions Plant, state police superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said Sunday.
About 800 of the residents of nearby Doyline voluntarily left on Friday, and police have continued to evacuate residents as they contain the situation.
The company’s “careless and reckless disregard made it unsafe for their own employees, for schoolchildren in Doyline, for the town of Doyline,” Edmonson scolded.
Authorities had initially estimated the total at 1 million pounds after an investigator looking into an Oct. 15 explosion at Explo Systems saw cardboard boxes on long rows of pallets behind a building. But they soon found more stacked in sheds and warehouses when crews returned Saturday to begin moving the boxes into bunkers about two miles away.
According to its website, Explo Systems is a “7-year-old, veteran-owned small business” that has been “demilitarizing/recovering explosives/propellant for over 15 years.” It claims to be compliant with DOD safety regulations and uses only “proven, environmentally safe” technology.
“It wasn’t in their storage magazines. They had it hidden on the property, away from the storage magazines where we would expect to find it,” Cain said.
Edmonson added: “It was stuffed in corners. It was stacked all over.”
Capt. Doug Cain, a state police spokesman, identified the product as M6 propellant. The pellets are largely compressed nitrocellulose, also known as guncotton.
Edmonson said that in two days, crews have moved just under a million pounds from the tightest-packed buildings into approved containers and onto 27 tractor-trailers to move to storage bunkers. Another 250,000 pounds has been moved a safe distance from the bulk of the material.
It won’t all have to be moved into bunkers to let people return home – the evacuation could be lifted once the propellant is divided into amounts that won’t threaten the town if some ignites, with each area a safe distance from the others.
Company officials could not be reached Sunday. The owners are reportedly returning Monday from a business trip to South Korea, but the manager has been working with state police from the start, Edmonson said.
But Doyline does have one other claim to fame, the Associated Press adds. Apparently it was used to film some scenes for the HBO vampire series “True Blood.”