COURTESY OF NOAA
Divers measured and photographed this discarded 30-caliber ammunition round in June during the Ordnance Reef survey.
Leeward folk don’t believe ordnance did not hurt fish
Some Leeward Coast residents said they are not satisfied with a federal study released yesterday that shows no signs of fish contaminated by explosives or heavy metals.
"It only raised more questions," said William Aila, fisherman and harbormaster of the Waianae Boat Harbor. "It warrants further study."
Results of an underwater study in an area dubbed "Ordnance Reef" in Waianae was conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Sanctuary Program, the University of Hawaii, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Army.
The two-week study was done in June to determine whether the hundreds of munitions in the area posed a potential risk to human health and the environment. More than 2,000 conventional or nonchemical munitions were identified in 2002 during a survey conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Munitions examined in the study ranged from "small-arms ammunitions to large-caliber projectiles and naval gun ammunition," according to the report.
"We understand that there is no immediate danger to the public," said J.C. King, assistant for munitions and chemical matters for the Army, during a telephone briefing with the media yesterday.
Based on the study, it is safe to swim in the water and eat fish in the area, King said.
But some Leeward Coast residents refuse to eat the fish caught in waters off Waianae. "I wouldn't eat the fish around there," said diver and Makaha resident Cameron Guadiz.
More than a dozen previously undetected munition clusters were found during NOAA's sonar survey and sea floor mapping.
Of those, nine were found near the shoreline in shallow waters ranging from 24 to 60 feet in depth. Five other clusters were found in deeper waters near the area where the Army Corps of Engineers discovered most of the munitions five years ago.
A total count of the munitions could not be done due to coral reef growth on the munitions that blended into the environment, said Michael Overfield, NOAA marine archaeologist and chief scientist of the Ordnance Reef survey.
More agencies are currently reviewing the report. Their assessment is expected to be completed by the end of the month.
Ninety-six sediment samples and 49 fish samples were collected and analyzed for the study. Sediments collected in the study included calcium carbonate and volcanic rock fragments. Fish collected for the study were reef fish that included farmer fish, goatfish and moray eel. Aila said he would have collected herbivorous fish species to be represented in the study. He also questioned why crustaceans were not studied because they could be affected since they live on the ocean floor.
Detection of heavy metals in the sediment was low, suggesting that little contamination of the Ordnance Reef area was from discarded military munitions, Overfield said. "Areas where high metals were detected were located at the outfall from the Waianae Wastewater Treatment Plant and attributed to natural land drainage from adjacent road surfaces and volcanic rock materials," he said.
Aila said that if the high metal detection is in fact caused by the treatment plant, the city would be responsible.
Levels of copper were detected in the sediment samples. The chemical substance dinitrotoluene, or DNT, also was detected in four sediment samples, according to the report. Three of the four samples that showed DNT levels were collected near munitions, said University of Hawaii oceanographer Eric De Carlo, who participated in the study. There were no high levels of DNT found, he said.
Guadiz questioned why there is no marine life in the Ordnance Reef area if there is no threat to humans or the environment. "The reef is dead," said Guadiz, an assistant dive instructor for Capt. Bruce's Scuba Charters, who takes scuba diving groups to the Leeward Coast daily. "There's not much marine life whatsoever."