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Marines Expose an Untold Number of People to Radiation at the Kane’ohe bay sandbar

September 8, 2011 

Autumn.  Low tide. A group of people wading in shallow water in a row dangling line over the water.  Must be oama (baby goatfish) season, right?

Wrong. These guys are not fishing for oama. These men are workers from the state of Hawaii Department of Health absurdly conducting a radiation screening of Ahu o Laka (Kane’ohe Bay sandbar) with radiation monitors hanging over the surface of the water.  The state admits that its radiation monitors are not the right tool for surveying underwater contamination.

Photo: Carroll Cox/ carrollcox.com

Why are they screening for radiation at the popular recreational site?

In March, a Marine Corps helicopter crashed on the sandbar, killing one crew and injuring several others.  What the Marines never reported was that the helicopter components included a radioactive isotope Strontium-90, the same bone-attacking radiological substance spewed over the Pacific by the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan.   You see, Strontium-90 is chemically related to Calcium, which it mimics when ingested into the body.   Once inside bone tissue, the nasty little particles of radiation emitted from the decay of the isotope can wreak havoc on tissue, cells, and genes in very close proximity over a sustained period of time.

When another CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter crashed into a university in Okinawa in 2004, Okinawan public safety crews and media and residents were forcefully excluded from the vicinity of the crash.   Many were concerned that Depleted Uranium often used as counterweights on the rotors were a public health hazard.  However, it appears that depleted uranium is used in the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter, but only Strontium 90 is used in the CH-53 Sea Stallion.

Environmental investigator and activist Carroll Cox received a tip that radioactive substances were released by the crash and that rescue and salvage workers and public users of the bay may have been exposed to the hazardous material without their knowledge.   He notified state officials, who were  unaware of the public health hazard, as well as the media.  Media reports on the radiation contamination can be read here, here, here and here.

Carroll writes on his blog:

Sources alerted The Carroll Cox Show, that civilian employees within the United States Marine Corps Environmental Department knowingly and intentionally withheld critical information about the presence of the radioactive isotope from the state, the workers at the crash site, and the public. Their actions caused the possible exposure of an untold number of people to radiation as they retrieved parts, looked for clues to the crash, contained leaking fuel, removed the aircraft from the site and assessed environmental impact, because they were working without protective gear.

The civilian support staff made the decision to not tell the workers even though the marine squadron that assigned the helicopter advised them that the aircraft contained IBIS units and they should treat the site as a hazardous waste spill.

Cox sent a series of questions to the Marine Corps and received a canned response. Here’s the correspondence between Cox and Marine Corps Public Affairs Officer Major Crouch:

Questions we asked the Marine Corps:

Did the aircraft contain radioactive materials as part of its cargo? If yes, what was the material and the quantity?

Did the aircraft’s rotors contain deicers or a safety In-flight Blade Inspection System (IBIS)? If yes, how many were there? Were all of the IBIS’s recovered? If yes, when were they recovered?

Were any of the radiated materials recovered and placed in a survival raft at the crash site? Were geiger counters used to recover the IBIS’s? Where were the IBIS’s stored once they were removed from the crash site?

How much strontium-90 is contained in each IBIS unit? Were any of the IBIS units damaged? If yes, what degree of damage was noted? Did any of the strontium -90 get released into the environment? if yes, how much?

Did your agency inform the public, first responders and all recovery personnel that the downed aircraft contained IBIS with strontium-90? If yes when and how was this accomplished? If not, why?

Why did your agency representative, Mr. Randall Hu, not disclose that the IBIS units contained strontium-90 during his appearances on television and other news accounts, and only expressed concerns about the fuel that the craft contained?

Did the location and recovery of the IBIS units cause the Marines to delay the removal of the downed aircraft?

In several news accounts it was reported that “the Marines were to comb the bay looking for any metal scraps and inspect the area for any environmental damage”. Were these Marines wearing the proper safety gear to search and retrieve strontium-90, the IBIS units or other radioactive materials?

What was the final disposition of the IBIS’s or strontium-90?

Is it the opinion of the United States Marine Corps that the presence of strontium-90 aboard aircrafts that have crashed are not an environmental hazard requiring public reporting? If no, why not?

Did your agency meet with management of the Honolulu Fire Department to discuss the failure of your agency to notify them of the presence of strontium-90 aboard the downed aircraft? If yes, please provide a copy of their concerns and the Marine Corps’ response?

Were members of the recovery teams screened for exposure to strontium-90? If yes, when and by whom? If no, why not?

Is the Marine Corps conducting any type of monitoring for the presence of strontium-90 at and around the crash site? If yes, what are the results? If no, why not?

Did The Marine Corps notify the Hawaii State Department of Conservation or other agencies that the downed aircraft was equipped with IBIS’s or other parts containing strontium-90?

If yes, when and how were the each of the agencies notified? Please provide copies of the notification.

———————————————————————————————————————

The answer we received from Major Crouch:

Subject: CARROLL COX SHOW – QUERY RE: CH-53D MISHAP

From: “Crouch Maj Alan F” <alan.crouch@usmc.mil>

Date: Thu, September 01, 2011 4:34 pm

Aloha Mr. Cox, Marine Corps Base Hawaii takes its obligation to protect personnel, the public and the ‘āina very seriously. Our first responsibility after the tragic mishap on March 29 was the rescue of personnel in the downed helicopter. Rescue responders included the Marine Corps Base Hawaii Waterfront Operations, aircraft from the U.S. Coast Guard and Army and the Honolulu Fire Department, as well as another CH-53D from MCAS Kaneohe Bay.

Almost immediately, base personnel placed a floating containment boom around the site to prevent the spread of petroleum fluids. Shortly thereafter, base and squadron personnel, with assistance from Navy, Coast Guard and state personnel, began the process of recovering the remains of the helicopter while an aviation mishap board conducted its investigation.

During the recovery efforts, some aircraft components were found to have a low level of contamination. All materials found to be contaminated were decontaminated or appropriately contained here on base. All personnel involved in the handling of any contaminated material were screened to verify they were not contaminated.

The low levels of radiation previously detected pose no significant health or environmental risk and were not of a reportable quantity. The site on the sand bar where the helicopter rested was inspected both during and after the salvage and recovery of the aircraft as a precautionary measure. No radiological contamination was found at the site.

Regards,

Maj. Alan Crouch Director,

Public Affairs Office

Marine Corps Base Hawaii

(808) 257-8840/-8870

In other words, the Marine Corps dodged nearly all the questions.

But it gets even worse.  The Marines lost the raft containing the radioactive parts.  The raft drifted around Kane’ohe Bay for some time before it was found by residents near the bay:

On Sunday, September 4, after our broadcast we learned the raft used to hold and transport the IBIS units and radioactive waste came lose from its mooring at the crash site, floated around Kaneohe Bay, and ended up by Kamehameha Hwy. A number of citizens came in contact with the raft.

Here are the questions Mr. Cox sent to the Marine Corps about the lost raft:

September 5, 2011

Major Alan Crouch

United States Marine Corps

Dear Major Crouch;

It has been brought to our attention that the life raft used at the site of the US. Marine Corps CH53 helicopter crash on March 29, 2011, broke loose from its mooring and drifted from the crash site to a residential area along Kamehameha Hwy at Kaneohe Bay. It is our understanding that the U.S. Marine Corps used the raft to store and transport radioactive materials containing Strontium-90 from the helicopter. We also learned, and as you have confirmed, the raft containing the radioactive material was transported to the water ops pier at the Kanoehe Bay Marine Corps Base and stored for a period of time. Reportedly it leaked radioactive materials onto the pavement of the pier area, causing some 65 square feet of cement to be excavated. We would like to ask you the following questions regarding the raft:

1. What date did the raft become dislodged from the crash site and the Marines lose custody of the raft?

2. How many days was the raft adrift?

3. How did the marines learn the raft was missing?

4. Did any of the civilians who had the raft in their possession during the time it was adrift remove any of the materials contaminated with radiation or the IBIS components?

5. Did you screen the individuals for radiation contamination? If yes, what were the results?

6. Did the Marine Corps screen the area along Kamehameha Hwy where the raft was recovered from? If yes, what was the level?

7. We have a picture showing a civilian towing the raft by boat. Did you screen that individual for radiation contamination?

8. After the marines retrieved the raft from the civilian did the marines immediately take it the water ops area on the base?

9. Did you notify the surrounding community and the individuals that came in contact with the raft that it contained radioactive Strontium-90?

10. Will there be charges brought against any of the civilians for handling the raft and materials?

11. Did the Marine Corps notify the U.S. Coast Guard, the Dept. of Health, DLNR, or other agencies that the raft was missing for several days? If so, when and to whom was notification made?

I would appreciate it if you would please provide answers to my questions by Thursday, September 8.

Sincerely,

Carroll Cox

He has not yet received an answer. READ THE FULL ACCOUNT ON CARROLLCOX.COM.

Photo: Carroll Cox / carrollcox.com

In the photo above of the downed helicopter, you can see the orange life raft that was used to contain the radioactive IBIS parts.   This raft broke loose some time after this and drifted across Kane’ohe Bay, eventually reaching residential areas along the bay shore.

A contact who lives on the shores of Kane’ohe Bay in Kahalu’u saw the raft adrift while working on a canoe.

This incident underscores the hazards of such intensive military activity in Hawai’i, the inability of the military to manage the risks and the secrecy and lack of honesty of the military when dealing with the public.  To paraphrase our friends in Vieques, Puerto Rico, history does not permit us to trust what the military says.

This incident also highlights why we must stop the proposed expansion of helicopter and Osprey facilities and activities at Mokapu (Kane’ohe Marine base).

State allows public access on Ahu o Laka sandbar despite radiation leak

September 3, 2011 

Using radiation monitors not designed to scan under water, the state determined that it was safe for the public to access the helicopter crash site in Kane’ohe Bay where radioactive Strontium 90 leaked out. The Honolulu Star Advertiser reports:

The public will be allowed on the sandbar at Kaneohe Bay this holiday weekend despite concerns about low levels of radiation in the area, state Department of Land and Natural Resources Director William Aila said.

Aila made the declaration after officials from the state Health Department’s Indoor and Radiological Health Branch traveled to the sandbar off Heeia Kea Pier and were able to measure only background levels of radiation during a survey of the air from about 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday.

Testing was prompted by warnings from environmental watchdog Carroll Cox earlier this week that military officials failed to notify the state or the public about the radiation released when a CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter crashed March 29 at the edge of the sandbar. One Marine stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii was killed and three others were injured in the crash landing.

The Marine Corps denies that it had a duty to inform the state or the public about the release of the radioactive substance:

“The low levels of radiation previously detected pose no significant health or environmental risk and were not of a reportable quantity,” Marine Corps Base Hawaii said. “No radiological contamination was found at the site.”

Yet, as reported in a KHON report, the Marine Corps thought the radiological threat serious enough to remove portions of asphalt on the Marine Corps Base Hawaii Kaneohe that were possibly contaminated by the Strontium 90:

Due to rigorous standards, officials at Marine Corps Base Hawaii carved out asphalt that came into contact with strontium-90 after a raft used to collect the helicopter’s IBIS system was placed on what’s known as the waterfront ops area.

“As a part of the mitigation, approximately 65 square feet of asphalt was removed from an area where contaminated components were temporarily located and isolated,” said Crouch.  “Thorough inspections were done at all aircraft component locations – both during and after recovery and salvage operations – to confirm there was no remaining contamination.”

READ THE FULL HONOLULU STAR ADVERTISER ARTICLE

Kaneohe sandbar deemed safe after radiological testing?

September 3, 2011 

Ahu o Laka, a sandbar in Kaneʻohe Bay, was the site of a fatal Marine Corps helicopter crash in March 2011.  More about that crash can be read here and here.  The crash resulted in the release of fuel and a radioactive substance Strontium 90, which mimics calcium and attacks bones.   However, the Marine Corps did not report the radiological release until documents were revealed by environmental activist Carroll Cox. Another story on the radiological release is here.

According to KHON News, the State of Hawaiʻi conducted a radiological sweep of Ahu o Laka and declared the area “safe” just in time for the long holiday weekend, when boaters converge on the island.

A sweep of the Kaneohe sandbar Friday by six members of the state’s Indoor and Radiological Health Branch turned up no evidence of radiological contamination from a helicopter crash five months ago.

“We got mainly background radiation,” said Jeff Eckerd, IRHB’s program manager.  “We did not get any hits or spikes.”

The testing was ordered Thursday after environmental activist Carroll Cox received information that the CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter that crashed onto the sandbar March 29, killing one marine and injuring three others, contained an In-flight Blade Inspection System.  Within the device are six half inch pellets that contain 500 microcuries of strontium-90, a radioactive substance known to be harmful if ingested.

“It’s a bone seeker,” explained Eckerd.  “It can get in and possibly cause bone cancer in high quantities.”

The Marineʻs insist that it was not required to report the spill:

Marine Corpse Base Hawaii spokesman Maj. Alan Crouch stressed that the amount of strontium-90 released into the environment as crews removed the helicopter off the sandbar was not a “reportable quantity.”  He said some military personnel were exposed, but at minimal levels.

But the radiological hazard was so severe that the Marines excavated asphalt where a raft was parked after removing the helicopter wreckage:

Due to rigorous standards, officials at Marine Corps Base Hawaii carved out asphalt that came into contact with strontium-90 after a raft used to collect the helicopter’s IBIS system was placed on what’s known as the waterfront ops area.

“As a part of the mitigation, approximately 65 square feet of asphalt was removed from an area where contaminated components were temporarily located and isolated,” said Crouch.  “Thorough inspections were done at all aircraft component locations – both during and after recovery and salvage operations – to confirm there was no remaining contamination.”

William Aila, Chairman of the Department of Land and Natural Resources was not satisfied with the Marine Corps’ response:

However Aila expressed concern DLNR was not immediately notified about the presence of strontium-90 on the downed helicopter, even if it posed no risk to first responders or state conservation officers.

“This is state land, it’s not Marine Corps base land,” said Aila.  “We certainly registered some strong feelings about not being kept in the loop.  We are in some very stern discussions with the Marine Corps base right now and working to ensure that situation doesn’t occur in the future.”

[...]

The state Health Department is checking whether the Marine Corps was required to report the release of strontium-90 to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which monitors the use of radiological substances.

“That is what we’re checking with the NRC,” said Eckerd, “to see if an actual notification was submitted to them.”

I’m in agreement with Carroll Cox that we should not accept the state’s testing results:

Cox however is still not satisfied with the military’s response to the release of strontium-90 and is demanding further testing.

“Create an effort to go and address this problem because people can be sickened,” said Cox.  “People can die from this neglect of duty.”

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Another story about the radiation leak at Marine helicopter crash site

September 2, 2011 

KHON TV carried a story about  the radiation leak at the site of a fatal Marine Corps helicopter crash in Kane’ohe Bay:

Activist concerned about possible radioactive contamination at Kaneohe Sandbar

Reported by: Andrew Pereira
Updated: 8:28 am

KANEOHE- Environmental activist Carroll Cox says a helicopter that crashed onto the Kaneohe Sandbar on the evening of March 29, killing one marine and injuring three others, released radioactive material into the surrounding area.

Cox says he was informed a week-and-a-half ago by military sources that the CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter contained a device known as an In-flight Blade Inspection System, or IBIS.  Within the device are six half inch pellets that contain the radioactive isotope strontium-90, a known carcinogen with a half life of 29 years that’s easily absorbed by human bones.

“I’m told by sources that some did contaminate, that meant that these capsules were breeched,” Cox said in an interview with Khon2.  “I would like to see an independent entity sample that area.”

Cox believes the popular three acre sandbar should be off-limits ahead of the Labor Day weekend until the state Health Department and the Department of Land and Natural Resources can guarantee the public is not at risk.

“Sacrifice one holiday rather than sacrificing the untold numbers out there that may become exposed,” he said.

DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward said testing of the sandbar where the helicopter went down would proceed Friday morning in an effort to reassure the public that all is safe.

“We’ll go out and do an assessment and make a determination later that day,” said Ward.

[...]

LEFT IN THE DARK

In a post accident report obtained by Cox, the Marine Corps notes the release of jet fuel, oil and hydraulic fluid from the downed helicopter, but there’s no mention of strontium-90.

David Henkin, chairman of the Kahaluu Neighborhood Board, said it’s disappointing the military chose to keep the release of radioactive material a secret, even if it posed no risk to the public.

“It’s disappointing that the marines didn’t report that to the community,” said Henkin, a Honolulu attorney.  “We’re about to go into the Labor Day weekend and there’s going to be a lot of families out there; we want to make sure that they’re safe.”

According to Cox, there is no evidence rescue personnel who rushed to the scene of the crash were told about the possibility of encountering radioactive material.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Radioactive strontium leaked into Kaneʻohe Bay from helicopter crash

September 2, 2011 

Brooks Baehr reports on Hawaii News Now that the fatal Marine Corps helicopter crash in Kaneʻohe Bay in March, resulted in radioactive Strontium 90 leaking into the bay. But the Marines never notified anyone, not even the State Department of Health.

Meanwhile, Hawaii News Now reports that a missile defense test failed to hit its target off Kaua’i:

The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency says at approximately 3:53 a.m. (HST), a Standard Missile 3 interceptor missile failed to hit its target over the Pacific Ocean.

But the Pentagon is still planning to procure hundreds of these missiles. Bloomberg reports:

The Pentagon plans to buy more than 300 of the SM-3 Block IB missiles over the next five years, at a cost of $12 million to $15 million per missile, Lehner said.

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State to test for radiation at Kaneohe Sandbar


Posted: Sep 01, 2011 6:36 PM 

 

By Brooks Baehr

KANEOHE (HawaiiNewsNow) – A small amount of a radioactive isotope leaked into Kaneohe Bay when a CH 53D helicopter from Marine Corps Base Hawaii crashed onto the Sandbar March 29, 2011 killing a Marine and injuring three others.

A Marine Corps spokesperson told Hawaii News Now there was “none at the site once the aircraft was removed,” but the state wants to make sure. Friday representatives from the state Department of Health and Department of Land and Natural Resources will travel by boat to the Sandbar to measure radiation levels.

Environmental watchdog Carroll Cox made the leak public when he contacted the media Thursday.

“What is most troubling to me in this situation was one, the failure to disclose it, and two, to allow it to continue to occur and progress without disclosing it and subjecting other human beings to this potential danger,” Cox told Hawaii News Now.

The CH 53D is equip with an In-Flight Blade Inspection System (IBIS). A device is attached to each rotor to warn the crew of problems with the blade while in-flight. Each device contains a small amount Strontium 90, a radioactive isotope.

“We don’t know if they recovered all six (IBIS devices) or what quantity they recovered or what was the proper disposal,” Cox said.

The Marine Corps spokesperson Maj. Alan Crouch confirmed there “was some contamination” from the inspection system, but said the radiation was “contained,” and there was “none at the site once the aircraft was removed.”

Cox is not so sure. He faults the military and civilians on base for not disclosing the leak and is asking the Marine Corps, the Department of Health, and the DLNR to investigate.

“I’m inclined to believe that there is still radiation out there, period. And until they give me a clear bill of health that they have gone out with a third party, then I would accept that,” Cox said.

Crouch said the leak was not made public because it was “not at a level to require notification.”

Both the Department of Health and the Department of Land and Natural Resources said Thursday they did not know about the radiation leak until receiving letters from Cox this week.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

Nuclear Radiation Workshop: Demystifying the Science & Uncovering the Lies

July 19, 2011 

Nuclear Radiation Workshop

Demystifying the Science & Uncovering the Lies

*Alpha * Beta * Gamma Radiation*

*Rads * Rems * Sieverts * Becquerel *

*Cesium-137 * Iodine-131 * Strontium-90*

*Depleted Uranium * Plutonium*

*Health Effects of Ionizing Radiation*

*Exposure vs Dose*  Risk Models*

*Latent and Long Term Effects*

*Atomic Physics * Nuclear Fuel Cycle*

*Nuclear Power * Nuclear Weapons*

*Hiroshima * Nagasaki * Fukushima * Chernobyl*

In remembrance of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the dozens of nuclear tests in the Pacific and in light of the recent Fukushima nuclear disaster and discovery of depleted uranium on O’ahu and Hawai’i island, learn to protect yourself from the effects of nuclear radiation and the lies perpetuated by the nuclear industry with the power of knowledge. Join physics educator and peace activist Lynda Williams in a friendly workshop covering basic atomic physics and the health effects of nuclear power and ionizing radiation. No prior scientific knowledge required. Free, accessible and welcome to all.

When: Weds, August 3, 6-9 pm

Where: Honolulu Friends Meeting House 2426 O’ahu Avenue, Honolulu

FREE

More Information: kyle.kajihiro@gmail.com / 808-988-6266.

Sponsored by: AFSC Hawai’i/Hawai’i Peace and Justice,

DMZ-Hawai’i / Aloha ‘Aina   http://www.dmzhawaii.org/

Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space

www.space4peace.org

 

Download the poster

Download the press release

Guam Senator Cruz demands demands radiation tests for Apra harbor

April 21, 2010 

Senator B.J. Cruz from Guam is demanding that the Environmental Protection Agency require the U.S. military to test for radiation contamination be conducted in Apra Harbor before dredging and dumping of the sediment is approved.   He is right to demand these studies.  It is widely known that U.S. navy ships have leaked radioactive water in Apra.  Given the nuclear history of the Mariana islands, it is reasonable to expect that there is radioactive sediment in the harbor.

In Hawai’i, radioactive Cobalt 60 contaminates the sediment in Ke Awalau o Pu’uloa (Pearl Harbor), leaked from the nuclear power plants on navy ships.    The EPA knows this, but is not requiring a thorough clean up.  The EPA should at least require that the military study the contamination of the harbor sediment to know the baseline level of environmental and human health risk that exists.

>><<

http://mvguam.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11842:cruz-demands-radiation-tests-&catid=1:guam-local-news&Itemid=2

Cruz demands radiation tests

THURSDAY, 22 APRIL 2010 04:34 BY THERESE HART | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

VICE Speaker BJ Cruz is protesting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s policy decision to not require radiation testing for dredged materials from Apra Harbor that would be dumped into the proposed ocean disposal site.

EPA said the testing was not necessary, prompting Cruz to fire off a letter to Nancy Woo, associate director of EPA’s water division for Region 9.

“It appears then that the dumping of any radioactive sediment under that equivalency threshold is an acceptable practice,” Cruz wrote.

“I take this to mean that, absent any proof that fuel and concentrated waste from nuclear reactors or materials used for radiological warfare were leaked into Apra Harbor, dredging and dumping may proceed without testing. That I cannot accept,” he added.

According to the Federal Register, EPA is proposing to designate the Guam Deep Ocean Disposal Site as a permanent ocean-dredged material disposal site located offshore of Guam. Disposal operations at the site will be limited to a maximum of 1 million cubit yards a calendar year and must be conducted in accordance with EPA’s site management and monitoring plan.

The Federal Register further reads that EPA should conduct an extensive series of tests and studies to determine if radiation exists in Apra Harbor waters or its sediments to independently confirm the Navy’s claim that the amount of leakage from nuclear-powered vessels is insignificant.

Woo has sent Cruz the final environmental impact statement for the designation of an offshore ocean-dredged material disposal site.

*Assurance*

In an April 14 letter, Woo assured Cruz that his concerns regarding radiation in dredged sentiment in Apra Harbor and its dumping in Guam waters have been addressed, but the vice speaker said he was far from reassured.

Woo cited USEPA regulations that prohibit ocean disposal of high-level radioactive waste and materials. Woo also stated that radioactivity testing will be required when there is reason to believe that elevated levels of radiation may be present.

The rules that Woo cites refers to fuel and concentrated waste from nuclear reactors and materials used for radiological warfare.

Cruz said he is concerned that EPA will allow the dumping of any radioactive material below high levels of concentration, which he said, is obvious.

Cruz believes that before any dredging occurs in Apra Harbor, samples taken from the depth of the proposed dredge must first be tested for radiation.

“It is common knowledge that the U.S. Navy discharged radioactive material into Apra Harbor on more than one occasion. It is imperative, then, that no dredging of the harbor take place until adequate radiation testing independent from that reported by the U.S. Navy has been conducted on proposed dredge sites,” wrote Cruz.

Oahu may get giant radar

July 16, 2003 

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Oahu may get giant radar

The military assesses the potential impact of a missile defense dome off Kalaeloa

Associated Press

Mooring a 25-story-tall radar dome and platform a few miles off Kalaeloa in West Oahu would impose only a minor visual impact “comparable to ships passing along the horizon,” according to a military report.

That assessment of the proposed Sea-Based X-Band Radar being developed as part of the nation’s ballistic missile intercept system was included in an environmental impact statement released by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency last week.

The mooring site off Oahu is one of six locations around the Pacific being considered as a home port for the huge radar device that would be towed to various sites during the testing program. The radar is part of a project from the Missile Defense Agency to target and intercept ballistic missiles in flight as a ship- and ground-based defensive shield.

If it is home-ported in Hawaii, the Sea-Based Test X-Band (SBX) radar platform, about the length of a Navy frigate, would spend up to nine months moored either in the Pearl Harbor area or three miles off the old Barbers Point Naval Air Station at Kalaeloa, and would be moved to one of three operational areas in the northern Pacific. It would have a crew of 50 and about another dozen shore-based personnel.

The radar platform and recent tests at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai are part of plans outlined in December by the Bush administration to have a rudimentary missile defense system ready for use by 2005.

Under the plan, 20 Standard Missile-3 interceptors would be placed aboard three Navy ships with improved versions of the Aegis system which uses radar to detect and track hostile missiles and cue on-board weapons to intercept them.

This sea-based system was outlawed under the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, but President Bush gained the flexibility of testing it when the United States withdrew from the treaty last summer.

The plan also calls for the development of ground-based missile interceptors.

The testing program comes when North Korea, which has a ballistic missile program, claims that it has produced enough plutonium for about a half-dozen nuclear bombs.

North Korea’s missile development program includes the Taepodong-2, a two-stage rocket that some analysts believe could reach Alaska or Hawaii.

Besides Hawaii, other areas being considered for the SBX are at Valdez or Adak in Alaska; Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands; Port Hueneme, Calif.; and the naval station at Everett, Wash.

Civilian authorities in Snohomish County, Wash., have raised concerns about potential adverse effects of electromagnetic radiation on health and safety and the radar platform’s imposing size.

Officials in Valdez, Alaska, expressed support for getting the radar.

The EIS reviewed potential environmental effects of a wide range of facilities the agency might build or upgrade as part of a new missile defense testing area recommended by Pentagon planners.

The report does not recommend a particular home port and that decision will be made some time after Aug. 11 by Gen. Ronald Kadish, head of the MDA, after the 30-day comment period on the final draft of the EIS ends, said Maj. Cathy Reardon, spokeswoman for MDA in Arlington, Va.

The $900 million radar uses a finely focused beam to track an incoming ballistic missile in space during the 20 minutes it spends outside the Earth’s atmosphere.

The radar could not be activated off Oahu before an electromagnetic radiation and electromagnetic interference survey and analysis is completed, according to the EIS.

During a March public hearing on a preliminary draft of the EIS, Leandra Wai, a Waianae Coast resident, said she was concerned about radar emissions from the SBX platform on top of her ongoing concerns about emissions from military facilities at Kaena Point and Lualualei.

“We’re going to be sitting in radio emissions from radar for the whole length of the coastline,” she said. “Now that feels pretty serious.”

David Hasley, from the Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s environmental office, discounted that concern. “They will make sure there are no hazards to people, period,” he told the March meeting.

“Implementation of Sea-Based Test X-Band Radar operational safety procedures, including establishment of controlled areas, and limitations in the areas subject to illumination by the radar units, would preclude any potential safety hazard to either the public or work force,” the EIS said.

“These limitations would be similar to the existing Ground-Based Radar Prototype on Kwajalein, resulting in no impacts to health and safety,” it said.

The SBX radar is not expected to radiate below 10 degrees above the horizon at the mooring site and the relatively small radar beam would normally be in motion which reduces the potential impact on birds, marine mammals or sea turtles in the area, the EIS said.

“Overall, no adverse impacts to marine mammals or sea turtles are anticipated,” it said.

http://archives.starbulletin.com/2003/07/16/news/index.html