Deep-sea vessels collect water, sediment samples near disposed munitions - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Deep-sea vessels collect water, sediment samples near disposed munitions

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Dr. Margo Edwards Dr. Margo Edwards

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - A team of researchers is gathering data from the ocean floor south of Oahu to determine whether military munitions that were disposed of there at the end of World War II pose a threat to people and the environment.

It's being described as cutting-edge research.

The $3 million study began in August 2007 with the team trying to locate the munitions, which are each about the size of a small conference table, in an underwater area roughly 40 square miles.

With the mapping complete, the researchers are now sending two deep-sea submersibles to the sites. The state-of-the-art vessels travel to depths of 600 to 1,500 feet, three to five miles south of Pearl Harbor. They're equipped with cameras and mechanical arms.

On Monday, the University of Hawaii's School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology released underwater video of the effort.

The video shows a three-man submersible near some of the munitions. The pilot manipulates the arms in order to collect water and sediment samples for chemical analysis.

"I think it's important for the safety of the people of the state of Hawaii," Dr. Margo Edwards, principal investigator, said. "I mean, we'd like to know that our water is safe, that our food is safe to eat, and that's what we're trying to address with this project."

The team says it has come across hundreds of munitions of various kinds. It has completed five days of diving so far, and plans seven more.

Researchers say it may take up to a year to get the lab results and complete the study.