$70 million awarded for Waikoloa ordnance cleanup

Source: http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/20090923/BREAKING01/90923043/+$70+million+contract+awarded+for+Big+Island+ordnance+removal+

Updated at 9:18 a.m., Wednesday, September 23, 2009

$70 million contract awarded for Big Island ordnance removal

By Jason Armstrong
West Hawaii Today

A Honolulu company will be paid $70 million to remove more unexploded artillery shells, grenades and other World War II ordnance from old training sites near Waimea on the Big Island.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced yesterday that it has hired Environet Inc. to perform the next cleanup phase at the former Waikoloa Maneuver Area.

Honolulu-based Environet will have five years to clear 3,950 acres of private and state-owned property, said Lacey Justinger, spokeswoman for the Corps’ Honolulu Engineer District.

Some 2,500 acres belong to Parker Ranch and are located two miles south of the Waimea-Kohala Airport, she said. The state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands owns the 450-acre balance located about two miles north of the airport, she said.

Parts or all of Waikoloa and Waimea are within the former 123,000-acre, or roughly 200-square-mile, military area used as a live-fire range during World War II.

It’s the nation’s largest “formerly used defense site,” the Corps said in a written statement. Some 40,000 troops, mostly Marines, trained there from 1943 to 1946.

That training left high explosives in a region where between 15,000 and 20,000 people now live, work and attend school, according to the Corps’ Honolulu Engineer District’s Web site.

“Accordingly, Waikoloa’s risk assessment code is ‘1,’ which means it is a high priority for ordnance removal,” the Web site states.

“The Department of Defense is committed to protecting and improving public health and safety by cleaning up environmental contamination in local communities that served as former military properties,” said the Corps’ written statement.

More than 2,100 “munitions and explosives of concern” and 260 tons of military debris have been taken from the area over the past seven years at a cost of $82 million, it said.

In March 2008, the Corps estimated another $680 million will be needed to finish the project.

“Because of the size, complexity and cost of the Waikoloa response, it should be considered a long-term action, potentially spanning more than 50 years,” states an April 2008 “information paper” the Corps’ Honolulu office supplied.

The Corps’ decision to approve the next cleanup phase drew praise from both Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi and U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye.

The important work “represents a significant investment that will make our island safer for residents and visitors,” Kenoi said.

It also will provide good jobs for Big Islanders, he added.

According to Justinger, Environet is committed to hiring Big Island residents and will interview the 25 people who in July graduated from an unexploded ordnance course offered by Hawaii Community College.

Environet’s desire to hire island residents could not be confirmed, however, because no company official returned a phone message left at its Honolulu headquarters Tuesday.

According to its Web site, Environet has already cleared about 1,322 acres within the former live-fire range. As part of a separate project, it surveyed a 230-acre area to “target items of environmental concern.”

Slightly more than 2,000 total acres have been cleared, according to the Corps.

The Corps’ announcement also quoted Inouye as touting the project’s employment benefits.

“I wish to commend the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for working very hard to maximize opportunities for both Hawaii companies and also Big Island residents,” Inouye was quoted as saying. “Having Big Island residents employed on the job ensures that it is done with cultural and local sensitivity. It is a big win-win.”

Calling the cleanup “the right thing to do,” Inouye said he looks forward to more announcements of ordnance-removal efforts on Hawaii Islan

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