The Honolulu Advertiser carried a story about contaminated missile sites. Hawai’i has several of these close missile silos, although it is not clear from the article whether any of the contaminated sites are in Hawai’i. I am aware of Nike missile sites in Waimanalo beach, at Peacock Flats above Mokuleia, and another in Kahuku. At a total projected cost of $400 million, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is cleaning up former missile sites:
The corps has spent $116 million at 44 former Atlas and Titan intercontinental ballistic missile sites and 19 former Nike anti-aircraft missile sites from the early Cold War. The ICBM sites include 14 in Kansas, 10 in Nebraska, seven in Wyoming, seven in Colorado and two in Oklahoma. California, New Mexico, New York and Texas have one contaminated ICBM site each.
The main chemical hazard is trichloroethylene (TCE). There is TCE and Perchloroethylene (PCE) contamination in the groundwater in Wahiawa and ‘Aiea due to military activities.
Exposure to high concentrations of the chemical could cause nervous system problems, liver and lung damage, abnormal heartbeat, coma and death, according to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. TCE also may cause cancer, other government agencies say.
TCE may have polluted many more missile sites than the corps is aware of.
The TCE standards were not established until after many of the closed missile sites were evaluated for possible contamination. This means that many sites may not have been evaluated for TCE contamination, but according to Lenny Siegel of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight, we cannot count on the government to follow through on their own:
“They don’t look too hard for new contamination because if they do, they have to clean it up,” said Lenny Siegel, executive director of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight in Mountain View, Calif.