PTA live fire continues despite council
DU results pending
by Jim Quirk
West Hawaii Today
Wednesday, December 31, 2008 9:01 AM HST
HILO — Testing on depleted uranium levels at Pohakuloa Training Area is completed, and although the results will be unavailable until spring, the U.S. Army continues live fire exercises at PTA.
The Hawaii County Council last spring and summer debated Puna Councilwoman Emily Naeole’s resolution requesting the military halt live fire training exercises at PTA until it was determined if depleted uranium was there.
The resolution, however, did not carry the weight of law. It had no effect on military training at PTA, said Howard Sugai, public affairs officer with the military Installation Management Command.
“The Army could not jeopardize training and preparedness of soldiers,” he said.
Some of the radioactive material was discovered at PTA in 2006, and it was later determined it came from spotting rounds fired from Davy Crockett weapons systems in the 1960s.
Sugai said PTA played an essential part, as members of the Hawaii National Guard recently trained there to prepare for their deployment to Kuwait.
However, no training is taking place near areas suspected of containing depleted uranium, he said.
The nearest training to suspect areas is 3.1 miles away, Sugai said, adding only dummy bombs made of concrete are being used.
Sugai stressed “there is no imminent danger to any soldier training there or to residents in adjacent communities.”
He said the Army conducted a survey of the area where depleted uranium may exist in November and early December, but even that was accomplished in a way that did not require military personnel to walk or drive into the potentially affected area.
Technologically advanced survey equipment was carried via helicopter to areas possibly contaminated with depleted uranium, Sugai said.
Some council members and residents feared that some of the military exercises could help stir up any depleted uranium at PTA and contaminate the air.
Most people who testified on the resolution said they favored it, and the council approved it July 3.
Connecticut company Cabrera Services, which is “regarded as industry experts in remediation of radiation and other radioactive materials,” conducted testing, Sugai said.
Sugai said he and Army Col. Howard Killian anticipate attending a council meeting sometime in February to provide a further update on the depleted uranium survey.