Depleted Uranium Debate

U.S. Army Colonel Shanks
U.S. Army Colonel Shanks

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS (KHNL) -- For years, it's been a heated debate between environmentalists and the U.S Army. Is depleted uranium present at military training areas in Hawaii? The Army says yes, but -- army officials say -- not enough to pose a danger.

The health effects of depleted uranium are controversial, but most experts agree that in low levels, it doesn't pose an immediate threat, whereas in high amounts it can be very toxic, and cause damage to the kidney's, liver, and lungs.

For years, the Army said depleted uranium rounds weren't ever used in Hawaii. Two years ago, an Army contractor found 15 depleted uranium rounds at Schofield Barracks, left over from and obsolete weapon called the "Davy Crockett."

Now, the Army's spending a million dollars to figure out how much depleted uranium is here, and exactly where it is.

They think its confined to Schofield Barracks, the Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island, and possibly, Makua Valley.

"We are taking extraordinary measures to make sure that we discover everything and do the things that we know to protect that safety," said U.S. Army Colonel Shanks.

Today, the Army announced they found this depleted uranium round, at the Pohakuloa Training Area. Its an issue that has many environmentalist and residents concerned. but, these experts say its too soon to tell, it poses any threat.

"The important aspect of this is to measure what's there because with out measurements we don't know weather theres any risk," said Sam Keith of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Private contractor Cabrera Services has been hired to survey the areas and try to find out exactly what's out there, and if it's dangerous.

"Because the data we get want to provide to you, what he's saying is we just don't have it right now. We know its here and thats what Cabrera Services is trying to determine, the scope of it right now," said Shanks.

Neighboring Wahiawa doctor, Dennis Ayon says he's not concerned by low levels of depleted uranium, if that's all that's there.

The army says the Schofield survey will be released early next year. They couldn't predict when they'd finish surveying the training area on the Big Island, or Makua Valley.