Unexploded Ordnance Warning Issued in Advance of Removal off Molokini
Federal and state agencies are issuing warnings to the public advising of the planned removal of unexploded ordnance from Oahu and the Molokini islet off Maui.
The remediation effort will take place in the early part of 2020. The Oʻahu removal is in offshore waters from Mālaekahana Bay to La‘ie; and the Maui removal is at the Molokini Marine Life Conservation District, off Maui’s south shore.
State and federal authorities are advising the public to follow the 3 Rs of unexploded ordnance (UXO) safety: Recognize, Retreat, Report.
“Although the UXOs discovered at the Molokini reserve have been in place for more than 70 years without incident, there is a potential for the ordnance to explode, particularly if they are disturbed,” said Bruce Anderson, director of the Hawai‘i Department of Health. “We urge everyone who may encounter any of these munitions to never approach, touch, move, or disturb them. Our department’s goal is to ensure removal of these items occurs as quickly and as safely as possible.”
Remedial action for two potentially explosive items identified in waters of the Molokini MLCD is expected to begin next spring, after Hawaiian Humpback whales have migrated from Hawai‘i and when sea conditions will be calmer.
Outreach to commercial tour operators, divers, and boaters is already underway by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Hawai‘i Department of Health, and the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources which has jurisdiction over State waters in the Molokini MLCD. This includes public presentations and distribution of UXO pamphlets to divers and boaters.
The US Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team has been requested to conduct the remediation at Molokini, and the area is expected to be closed temporarily during this work.
Specialized disposal teams from the US Army Corps of Engineers identified and began removing about 185 items potentially presenting an explosive hazard from waters off the islets between Kahuku and La‘ie on O‘ahu’s North Shore over the summer. Work ended in September and will resume in the spring to allow whales to move away and permit work to continue in calm waters. The area around Goat Island has not been observed to have UXO.
Unexploded munitions left behind more than 70 years ago from historical military activities in areas around the state pose a serious risk if disturbed. No injuries or deaths in Hawai‘i have been attributed to UXOs since extensive public education efforts conducted by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and the Hawai‘i Department of Health. The last incident occurred in 1983 when two Schofield soldiers were injured by UXO during a military exercise on Parker Ranch land near Pu‘u Pa‘a, and in 1971, a Hawai‘i Island teenager died from an explosion when he handled and attempted to dismantle a UXO found at Pohakuloa Training Area.
- Repeating the 3 R’s of UXO safety:
Recognize – when you may have encountered a munition and the potential danger
- Retreat – do not approach, touch, move or disturb it and carefully leave the area
- Report – call 911 or the DOH HEER Office at (808) 586-5815
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