Munitions Remain in Landfill and Elsewhere

There are still two piles of munitions remain in the scrap metal area of the Molokai Landfill, according to Hudson Kekaula, a program director for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. One pile was left in 2004 by the Army after a clean up of the Papohaku Ranchlands. The area is a former World War II bombing site and old ordnance was removed from the land in compliance with the Defense Environmental Restoration Program.

According to Kekaula, both piles of munitions in the landfill will be removed. While ordnance put in the landfill by the Army had been “demilitarized” and is considered safe, the origin of the second pile is unknown. What’s more, Kekaula said the Army is now unsure as to which pile was deemed “safe,” and so will be removing both piles.

“The standard way to dispose of munitions is to blow them up,” said Kekaula. This is the procedure the Dept. of Defense followed when it removed other munitions earlier this summer.

While these munitions were taken to a quarry where they were destroyed, the explosion caused alarm for some island residents who were unaware of the situation. Kekaula said that in the future, they will let the public know way in advance if anything is going to be detonated.

A military contractor has been hired to assist the landfill’s recycling contractor as the rest of the scrap metal is sorted through during the next three months. The military contractor will be there to ensure the safety of the landfill workers, and also to ensure that closing the landfill again will not be necessary, according to Kekaula.

Although the Papohaku Ranchlands were cleaned up, Kekaula said that military ordnance could be located all over the Molokai’s west end.

“If anyone finds munitions, please contact the police department and they will get in touch with the proper authorities,” said Kekaula.

As of right now, the military has no plan to search for and remove any of the stray ordnance. Kekaula said such a process is not cost effective, but that the military could do an “archival search” to look through their records to find specific locations on Molokai which were formerly used for training. As of now the military is not planning any type of search.

During the same town hall meeting, Mayor Charmaine Tavares said that she has requested the involvement of Sen. Daniel Inouye (HI-D). The Mayor hopes that Inouye could help Molokai get the funding to clean up its entire west end. In September 2006, Inouye sponsored a bill that Congress approved for the funding of defense-related projects in Hawaii. The funds included over $1 million dollars to aid research in the mapping and detection of unexploded ordnance in order to clean up the lands on the Big Island that were formerly used for military training.


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