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

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.”


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