State needs answers on chemical weapons
Congressman Abercrombie has asked the Army for details on dumping of chemical weapons in the ocean off Hawaii.
POTENTIAL for serious harm to humans and the environment from chemical weapons dumped in ocean waters around Hawaii should prompt the Army to release information about the munitions.
The state should strongly support Congressman Neil Abercrombie in his request to the Army for details about the kind of weapons discarded, disposal sites and an assessment of their current conditions.
The weapons apparently were dumped in several areas off Oahu in 1944 and 1945, a routine procedure for getting rid of dangerous material no longer needed. At the time, the consequences of such disposals weren't considered, but since then, the practice has been banned by both Congress and international treaty because hazards have come to light.
Recent reports reveal that 64 million pounds of chemical agents were secretly dumped into the ocean at more than two dozen sites near Hawaii and 10 other states and that the Army can pinpoint only half of them.
At least 16,000 mustard-filled bombs were thrown into the ocean as close as five miles off Oahu. In 1976, a Hawaii fisherman was burned when he brought up a mortar round filled with mustard gas, showing how dangerous such materials can be decades after disposal.
In his letter to the secretary of the Army, Abercrombie lists other toxic materials that might have been dumped, including Lewisite, cyanogen and hydrogen cyanide, agents that are harmful to respiratory, cardiovascular and digestive systems.
Abercrombie points out that a cleanup effort might reach the "magnitude of Kahoolawe," the island that had been used as a military target and required more than $400 million to remove unexploded ordnance.
The Army maintains that the inaccessibility of the dump sites mitigates risks, but the effects of ocean disposal have never been studied and there has been no monitoring to gauge deterioration of metals or release of harmful substances. The Army bears a responsibility to attempt rectify the problem.
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