Joan Conrow has written an excellent synopsis of the military’s depleted uranium (DU) contamination issue in Hawai’i on the Civil Beat website. Here’s an excerpt of her article:
The Army prohibited all training with DU in 1996; however, munitions containing DU remain in wide use.
Although the Army for years denied that it had ever used DU munitions in Hawaii, contractors found 15 tail assemblies from the M101 spotting rounds while clearing a firing range at Schofield Barracks in 2005. Even then the Army did not publicly disclose the presence of DU in Hawaii. The issue came to light inadvertently in 2006, when Earthjustice discovered communication about DU in Army e-mails subpoenaed as part of the ongoing litigation over the use of Makua as a live fire training facility.
The Army subsequently acknowledged that it trained soldiers on the Davy Crockett weapon in Hawaii and at least seven other states during the 1960s.
As a result, some residents have developed a deep distrust of the Army’s statements regarding DU, even though the Army maintains it is committed to transparency on the issue.
It’s unclear how much DU is located in the Islands, or exactly where. Some 29,318 M101 spotting rounds containing 12,232 pounds of DU remain unaccounted for on American installations, according to the Army’s permit application. In Hawaii, the Army’s initial surveys were conducted at just three installations — Schofield, PTA and Makua — and the effort was severely limited by dense vegetation, rugged terrain and what the military characterized as “safety considerations” due to unexploded ordnance.
It’s also unclear just how DU may be affecting human health and the environment in Hawaii, as well as other parts of the world where it was used in combat. Its potentially severe and long-lasting impacts are the core of a growing controversy over its use on the battlefield and its presence in the Islands.
Here’s a related article from August 2010 on the Army’s application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for an after-the-fact license to “possess” DU at ranges in Hawai’i.