Military junk pulled from Kalaeloa pond raises fresh concerns


COURTESY JOHN BOND Ordy Pond, off Tripoli Road near Coral Sea Road on the former Barbers Point Naval Air Station, is shown in a photo taken with former City Councilman Tom Berg in August of last year.

Some Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners and historians are protesting the Navy’s method of cleaning up unexploded ordnance at a sinkhole site within Kalaeloa (once the site of Barber’s Point Naval Air Station). The Honolulu Star Advertiser reports (“Military junk pulled from Kalaeloa pond raises fresh concerns” February 3, 2013):

The Navy said at least 300 bits of junk and ordnance-related material have been pulled out of or near Ordy Pond, a 10,000-year-old sinkhole and possible pre-contact fishpond on the former Barbers Point Naval Air Station that has come under scrutiny by Hawaiians, historians and state officials.

Controlled detonations will be used Monday on site to destroy some of the items, including MK-24 aircraft flares used to mark submarine locations; 1-pound “spotting” charges in 100-pound practice bombs; and a spotting charge in an MK-106 practice bomb, the Navy said.

Apparently, the Navy dumped all sorts of munitions and scrap into the pond:

According to a 2007 Navy study, Ordy Pond reportedly was used for the disposal of ordnance-related scrap from the late 1960s to the late 1970s.

But no detailed information about the types of ordnance disposed of was available, according to the Navy report. The study also said that during site surveys, the Navy found and removed flares and small arms ammunition, but no explosive ordnance was discovered.

[. . .]

During an ordnance survey in 1994, “they found a couple of unusual items they didn’t expect to find,” said Denise Emsley, a Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii spokeswoman. “They found some flares, some flare dispenser cartridges, an inert bomb fin assembly. So bits and pieces of things that shouldn’t have been there.”

Emsley added that Ordy Pond was never used as a training area, “and the fact that this stuff was found (means) it was probably left there or dumped there incorrectly.”

I suppose this is how military valued Hawaiʻi.

One concern about the cleanup is the use of heavy equipment to remove mangrove and the detonation of munitions.  The ʻEwa plains have some of the most unique geological, biological and cultural formations in the Hawaiian islands.  Critics of the Navy’s actions fear that such activity will harm the cultural sites:

John Bond, an Ewa Beach historian, said Ordy Pond has become a “major destruction site” with all the heavy equipment work.

“This entire Ordy Pond project has all the appearances of way too much to spend with way too little documentation,” Bond said. “There could be very significant impacts to the pond water, underground karst system and very possible destruction of numerous yet undocumented archaeological sites — and even iwi kupuna burials.”

The work could have been done with chainsaws and machetes to better protect the pond environment, Bond said.

[. . .]

Both Bond and Michael Lee, a cultural descendant of Native Hawaiians buried in the area, question why an archaeological inventory survey was not conducted for the Ordy Pond site.

“How can you say you are protecting archaeological sites when you haven’t inventoried them?” Lee asked.

A May 5, 2011, letter from the state Historic Preservation Division to the Navy noted that the Ordy Pond project “area of potential effect” included 18 archaeological features and said an archaeological inventory survey would be “appropriate.”

The Navy said the project subsequently was revised to “avoid all archaeological resources,” so the survey was not done.

Bond said that “doesn’t appear to be the case at all,” adding, “In fact, the entire project has been greatly expanded into the most important and culturally sensitive area on the former base.”

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