AP: Bid Discrepancies Preceded La. Town Evacuation

By HOLBROOK MOHR

The explosives recycling company blamed for the evacuation of a Louisiana town in December misstated its storage capacity for dangerous materials when it sought a multimillion dollar Army contract in 2010, according to documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

Less than three years later, the town of Doyline was evacuated for a week when authorities found more than 6 million pounds of improperly stored military propellant at Explo Systems Inc. Some was spilling from containers or "hidden" among trees at the company's facility about 25 miles east of Shreveport, Louisiana authorities said.

In a proposal submitted to the Army and dated Jan. 21, 2010, Explo Systems said it had "storage capacity for more than 70 million pounds of explosive material between our Louisiana and Kentucky storage locations," according to documents obtained by the AP through a public records request.

Explo Systems was hired to demilitarize artillery propelling charges â¿¿ not to store them â¿¿ and intended to take the containers apart and recycle the materials. The propellant chemical known as M6 was to be sold primarily for coal mine blasting, and the arrangement meant the company could make money from both the Army and buyers of the recycled components. But when demand for M6 decreased, the company started taking in more than it could sell and ran out of bunker space.

Explo could have told the Army it didn't have enough space â¿¿ and risk defaulting on its contract â¿¿ but it didn't do that until authorities stopped allowing it to accept more charges. Days later, Doyline was evacuated because of concerns that any ignition could set off a massive chain-reaction blast.

"They certainly didn't want it to stop coming in. If they quit taking it, they lose that income," said Sheriff Gary Sexton in Webster Parish, where the facility is located on a Louisiana National Guard base called Camp Minden.

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