Army Corps plans ordnance cleanup

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its contractors have completed a plan for addressing the threat of unexploded ordnance at four sites in the former Waikoloa Maneuver Area, as cleanup efforts reach the $200 million mark in what is expected to be a 70-year, $723 million effort.

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its contractors have completed a plan for addressing the threat of unexploded ordnance at four sites in the former Waikoloa Maneuver Area, as cleanup efforts reach the $200 million mark in what is expected to be a 70-year, $723 million effort.

A 43-acre area surrounding the Waimea-Kohala Airport that is not covered by pavement will be examined at the surface and subsurface, under a preferred alternative, said ordnance removal contractor David Wacker, project manager for Native Hawaiian Veterans LLC, based in Honolulu. Out of an original 350 acres, 260 has already been cleared. Another 90 acres hasn’t been investigated and could contain ordnance.

Area N, comprised of 1,585 acres south and mauka of the Queen Kaahumanu Highway intersection with Kawaihae Road, includes Hapuna Golf Course and surrounding residences. The Army Corps proposes to do surface and subsurface removal along northern borders and at an old aircraft crash site. Ordnance has historically been removed from the area, and although the most recent assessment didn’t reveal the presence of munitions, the contractor would proceed based on the region’s history as a live fire area.

Just north of the intersection of Queen Kaahumanu Highway and Kawaihae Road, a 3.7 acre site was used for hand grenade training. The area is used for ranching, and two hand grenades were located there during a 2004 cleanup. Residences are located to the southeast of the site, and nothing further will be done there besides public education.

And an 11-mile, 960-acre stretch along the bottom of old Saddle Road would simply be left to lie, under the Army Corps’ plan. Investigators have found no evidence of old explosives there, Wacker said.

The Army Corps says it will work to raise public awareness in connection with the first three sites.

The plan has been published on the Army Corps of Engineers Honolulu District website, said project manager Walter Nagai. It is also available for review at the Thelma Parker Memorial Library in Waimea. The Corps is taking public comments until August 14.

“We want to hear from people. That will help us reach a decision,” Nagai said.

A final plan could be finished by the end of the year, he said.

The 123,000-acre Waikoloa Maneuver Area area was used as an artillery range and for other training during the World War II era. Army Corps contractors working with metal detectors have removed thousands of pounds of munitions debris, and 2,400 pieces of ordnance from more than 28,000 acres over decades of cleanup.

Munitions and explosives continue to be found. Clearance efforts continue in places where risks are moderate to high and where development is planned, with three contracting companies working on ordnance removal in the old WMA.

Even when an area has been cleared, there is no way to guarantee the threat is gone, Nagai said.

That’s why part of the plan is for the Army Corps to go into schools and educate children about what to do if they find something that looks like it could be ordnance. Children are taught to recognize potentially hazardous objects, retreat, and report to an adult, who then informs police. Police determine whether the object warrants calling the Army, Nagai said.

“There’s no way to guarantee we got everything, so we need to educate folks that this was a former training area,” he said.

Nearly 600 Department of Hawaiian Home Lands leases in five communities within the WMA are potentially affected by unexploded ordnance. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently stopped issuing grants and loan guarantees to some housing projects in the area due to concerns about unexploded ordnance.

Comments can be sent to:

Walter Nagai

Project Manager

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Honolulu

District Building 230

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Fort Shafter, Hawaii 96858-5440

Walter.T.Nagai@usace.army.mil

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