‘No Action’ Proposed for Kalaupapa Bombsite

From 1941 to 1946, the United States bombed an area measuring about 200 acres northeast of Kalaupapa peninsula. The latest proposal by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in an ongoing process to clear unexploded ordinance from the area is to pursue no further cleanup action in the land surrounding the actual bombing target.

Kalaupapa’s Makanalua Bombing Range is 937 acres. In the core of this area, 233 acres are designated as Target Area, where most of the bombs and artillery fell. The surrounding 704 acres are designated Remaining Lands.

“The [Remedial Investigation] recommended no further action for the Remaining Lands … which is the topic of the proposed plan for this evening,” said Army Corps Project Manager Lori Wong, during a public meeting at Mitchell Pauole Center on Aug. 2. “No items with an explosive hazard have ever been found in the boundaries of the Remaining Lands area.”

Additionally, the low levels of munitions constituent metals detected in the soil at the Remaining Lands do not pose a risk to human health or the environment, according to Wong.

Within the Target Area, however, a remedial investigation in 2013 found 99 munitions and explosives of concern — including 13-pound, 4.5-pound and 3-pound unexploded ordinance — plus 1,024 pounds of munitions debris.

An inventory project report completed by the Army Corps in 1991 established the Makanalua Bombing Range as a Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS). The report recommended an investigation in the area to evaluate whether there was a need for further action. In 2004, the report defined the FUDS, creating a larger, 937-acre boundary called Munitions Response Area, encompassing the bombing and air-to-ground target areas as well as a safety buffer zone, the Remaining Lands.

In 2008, a site inspection found two 3-pound bombs and one 13-pound bomb, plus a 3-inch armor-piercing naval projectile, likely from ship-to-shore artillery exercises. The inspection concluded a potential explosive safety risk was present at the Remaining Lands. But soil sampling found no indication of explosive residues, plus the maximum concentration of munitions constituent metals presented no unacceptable risks to humans and the environment from exposure to the surface soil, according to the Army Corps.

All munitions and explosives of concern found during the 2013 remedial investigation were within the Target Area. The only munitions debris found in the larger Remaining Lands were expended small arms at a very low density, according the Army Corps.

Though the project is in its final phase, it is currently a proposal. The Army Corps is still accepting public comments on their proposed “no action” choice. If their option is ultimately chosen, there will be no further remedial action at the Remaining Lands, and the Army Corps would pursue to close the project and seek a regulatory agreement.

Wong said after this project is closed, the next step for the Army Corps would be to seek funding to start a project to clean up the Target Area, where all the unexploded ordinances and most of the munitions debris were found.

Only three community members attended the public meeting.

The public can send written and oral comments on the Proposed Plan until Sept. 30 to: USACE Honolulu District, Attn: Lori Wong (PP-E), Building 230, Fort Shafter, Hawaii 96858-5440.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Project Manager Lori Wong is seen here during a meeting at Mitchel Pauole Center Aug. 2 to inform the community on the proposed plans for Kalaupapa’s Makanalua Bombing Range. Photo by Léo Azambuja
Kalaupapa’s Makanalua Bombing Range. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials are proposing no further ordinance cleanup in the blue area, which is deemed safe. In the yellow area, several unexploded ordinance and munitions debris have been found, and a cleanup plan there has yet to be discussed. Image courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


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