Army OKs $10 million to clear ammunition
WAIKOLOA, Hawaii » The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has cleared unexploded World War II ammunition from 6,600 acres of land around Waikoloa and Waimea on the Big Island.
Now it has authorized nearly $10 million to clean up an additional 1,500 acres.
But even when the new job is done, there will be 47,000 acres for the future, said Corps of Engineers project manager Chuck Streck.
If Congress approves additional funding, a new contract could be approved to continue the cleanup, he said. The current contractor, American Technologies Inc., would be eligible to bid along with others, he said.
The need for the cleanup stemmed from training in World War II, Streck said. On Nov. 20 to 23, 1943, Marines fought and won the battle of Tarawa, but at a terrible cost in Marine lives.
In response, Marines used as much as 135,000 acres of Parker Ranch on the Big Island for training for future Pacific battles. About 55,000 acres are affected with munitions, Streck said.
After the war, some cleanup was done, but not enough. Over several years, three people were killed and five injured by munitions.
Beginning in 1968, when Boise Cascade company bought the area and started developing Waikoloa, live ammunition remained. In this decade, as new development started, the need for more cleanup became urgent.
Since 2004 the contractor has removed 100 tons of "military munitions debris," Streck said.
That includes about 1,800 live artillery shells, mortar rounds, hand grenades and other explosives.
It also includes a variety of Japanese munitions, brought to Hawaii from Pacific battles sites to familiarize Marines with them.
With the latest funding increment of $9,994,450, a total of about $57 million has been committed to the cleanup, most of it for direct cleanup but some of it for planning, assessment, health and safety work, Streck said.
Sites to conduct the work have been selected in consultation with area residents, developers and police and fire officials, Streck said.
They selected areas around Waikoloa, Waimea and along the road down to Kawaihae as areas that have the greatest concentration of people rather than the greatest concentration of munitions as determined by earlier studies, he said.