Army investigating after being notified of illegal dumping near Ookala

U.S. Army officials at Pohakuloa Training Area say an investigation is underway after the base was notified by Hawaii County Civil Defense Monday of illegal and unauthorized dumping of waste near Ookala.

The items dumped at the site along the Hamakua Coast included refuse and recyclables found at the site include military munition storage and shipping containers, metal rebar, and vegetable/fruit cans, the Army said in a prepared statement.

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“Safety is definitely our top concern. Based on the reported military items, we assess there is no imminent risk to human health or the environment from the improperly discarded military items,” said Lt. Col. JR Borce, PTA commander.

Pohakuloa Training Area said records indicate a former disposal contractor may be responsible, but declined to name the vendor.

The Army does not haul and dispose of large-item recyclable or scrap material itself, but hires contractors to perform that work under strict contracts, according to the Army. The contracts contain robust environmental protection clauses where contractors promise to meet and comply with all applicable environmental laws and provisions.

Army contractors are required to dispose solid waste refuse at an off-post location permitted by the Department of Health. Contractors agree to remain solely responsible for remedying all federal, state and local environmental and safety violations or noncompliance issues.

“At PTA we work very hard to reduce and recycle solid waste to the greatest extent possible,” Borce said. “To hear that those efforts appear to have been undermined in this instance is disturbing and absolutely unacceptable.”

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The U.S. Army said it is fully cooperating with the Department of Health and county officials in the investigation into this apparent illegal and unauthorized dumping.

“The Army will transparently work with the Hawaii Department of Health and local officials to help determine what happened, and if needed assist in clean up as permitted by law,” Borce added.

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