Bombs Away

Army Corps of Engineers continues Molokai military ordnance cleanup.

Senator Inouye enjoys a moment of relaxation on a Molokai Formerly Used Defense Site field trip with the furry mascot of the Molokai Land Trust.

By Catherine Cluett

Senator Inouye received a special tour on his visit to Molokai two weeks ago – an off-road field trip to see some of Molokai’s Formerly Used Defense Sites, or FUDS. He and members of the Army and Army Corps of Engineers packed into four-wheel drive trucks for a bumpy ride towards Ilio Point Bombing Range on Molokai’s west end. They were accompanied by members of the Nature Conservancy and the Molokai Land Trust; both organizations manage land adjacent to the site.

The Army Corps of Engineers is involved in a continuing effort to clean up unexploded military ordnances that still exist in many areas of Molokai and around Hawaii. The first step of the process is a study of the area, including a surface sweep and sub-surface sweep with a metal detector, says Gary Shirakata of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Once any ordnance is found, the ammunition is moved to a safer location for explosion, if possible. If such transfer is not safely feasible, the ammunition is disposed of onsite, explains Shirakata.

Ordnance is also being researched on the Mokio Parcel, an area next to Ilio Point, currently owned by Molokai Ranch.

Molokai Land Trust representatives say they have already found and removed 11 pieces of ordinance from land they manage on the West End.

The last military activity in the area was in 1946. In 1986, the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act was passed, a legislation that gives authority for certain cleanup activities at FUDS in the United States.

Many Molokai residents recall watching bombs explode on the island, and finding ordnance in their backyards. But the search continues. In 2007, Molokai Landfill was closed temporary after unexploded ordnance was found while removing scrap metal from the site.

Papohaku Ranchland is another known FUD site that has already undergone cleanup.

If you suspect you have found unexploded military ordnance material, do not touch or move it but call the police immediately.

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