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Hawaii Undersea Military  Munitions Assessment

Hawaii Undersea Military Munitions Assessment

Project Highlights:

Project Description:

The University of Hawai‘i at Manoa and Environet were awarded approximately $3 million to conduct the Hawai‘i Undersea Military Munitions Assessment (HUMMA). This program supported the U.S. Department of Defense’s efforts to assess the potential risk to human health and the environment of an historic munitions disposal site located about 5 miles south of Pearl Harbor.

Sea Disposal Site Hawai‘i (HI-05) was the primary focus of HUMMA’s efforts. Historical records show that after World War II approximately 16,000 M47 100 pound bombs, each containing approximately 73 pounds of the chemical agent mustard, were disposed at HI-05. Environet and the University of Hawaii developed a systematic approach for locating; bounding and characterizing deep water sea disposal sites; and assessing the potential impact of sea disposed munitions on human health and the ocean environment, and of the ocean environment on sea disposed munitions. This program will serve as a template for developing cost efficient methodologies for use at other sites of similar or deeper depths.

In early March, 2009, the HUMMA project team visited the study area with remotely operated underwater vehicles and three-man research submarines to dive directly down to the identified disposal sites and to confirm the presence of disposed military munitions. Munitions were found in trails, which confirmed the hypothesis that munitions were dumped off ships as they steamed forward. Any munitions object encountered during this investigation was visually assessed for casing integrity and records were sent off to experts for munitions type identification. Water and seafloor sediment samples were collected in the vicinity of the identified disposal sites and at control sites away from the identified disposal sites. Samples were shipped to mainland laboratories for analysis for explosives and chemical agents and their breakdown products to assess any potential impact of the undersea munitions on human health and the environment. A separate field effort was launched in April, 2009 to collect human food item biota samples from where the submersibles collected water and seafloor sediment samples. Onaga and ama ebi were caught by using the same methods that commercial and recreational fishermen use.

"University of Hawaii‘s School of Ocean Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) and the quality team it assembled exceeded our expectations performing an extremely complex study with scientific rigor. By providing the Army with demonstrated, proven procedures for characterizing and assessing a munitions disposal site, SOEST has made a significant contribution to the Department of Defense's understanding of the potential effects of historic sea disposal sites on the ocean environment and those that use it."

-Mr. Tad Davis, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health