State and federal officials say remedial work of unexploded ordnance off of Oahu’s North Shore and in Molokini is scheduled for spring 2020, after humpback whales have migrated back north and ocean waters are calmer.
Before the work gets underway, state and federal officials are reminding the public to follow the three rules of unexploded ordnance 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, Hawaii Department of Health director, in a news release. “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.”
To educate the public, state and federal officials have distributed pamphlets about UXOs to divers and boaters.
Officials say that remedial work for UXOs identified in the offshore waters from Malaekahana Bay to Laie on Oahu’s North Shore began over the summer, and ended in September, but will continue again in the spring.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers teams began removing about 185 potentially explosive items from waters, focusing on islets between Kahuku and Laie. They did not find any UXO around Goat Island.
On Maui, the U.S. Navy’s explosive ordnance disposal team will conduct remediation work at Molokini next year. During that time, the area will be temporarily closed.
Unexploded munitions left behind more than 70 years ago from historical military activities around Hawaii pose a serious risk if disturbed, authorities said.
In 1983, two Schofield soldiers were injured by UXO during a military exercise on Parker Ranch land near Puu Paa.
In 1971, a Hawaii island teenager died from an explosion when he attempted to dismantle a UXO found at Pohakuloa Training Area.
The 3 rules of UXO safety are:
1. Recognize: Know when you may have encountered a munition and the potential danger.
2. Retreat: Do not approach, touch, move or disturb a munition and carefully leave the area.
3. Report: Call 911 or the DOH Hazard Evaluation and Emergency Response Office at 586-5815.