‘Alarming’: Closure of Oahu’s only public shooting range sparks concerns of lead hazards

Hawaii Kai neighborhood board members want to know if the Koko Head Shooting Complex is a health hazard to the community.
Published: Oct. 26, 2022 at 6:11 AM HST|Updated: Oct. 26, 2022 at 3:16 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The indefinite closure of Oahu’s only public shooting range is drawing questions about lead hazards.

The Koko Head Shooting Range has been closed for more than five weeks.

The city’s Department of Parks and Recreation claimed there was a staff shortage and that they were moving forward with a berm remediation project earlier than planned.

But a longtime neighborhood board member claims the city is not being transparent about the situation.

In a neighborhood board meeting on Tuesday night, longtime member Greg Knudsen passed along information he had been hearing regarding the shooting complex.

Knudsen claimed the potential risk of lead contamination across the entire range is what’s contributing to staffing shortages.

“The range manager and the range safety officers have been removed from their duties due to high levels of lead contamination in their blood,” said Knudsen. “Now that isn’t just from the berm restoration need, that would mean there was airborne lead and contamination.”

Honolulu City Council Chair Tommy Waters said that if what Knudsen said is true, that would be “really concerning” and “alarming.”

“Because we want people to be safe,” Waters said. “But I will tell you this folks, I made inquiries numerous times to the parks department to find out what’s going on because this is the only publicly owned shooting range, this is where our responsible gun owners have an opportunity to use their weapons.”

Neighborhood board member Samuel Wolff said there are concerns of further spreading of lead poisoning into the ocean when it’s windy or rainy.

“There’s a lot of serious problems that now that the shooting range is closed, we should really take a more critical look at,” Wolff said.

Laura Thielen, director of the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, sent a statement to Hawaii News Now on Wednesday afternoon that said employees were tested prior to the closure.

The tests found that some of the employees did show blood levels considered above the normal range, she said. However, the tests were below the OSHA-established levels of concern — 40 micrograms/100 grams of whole blood — and “did not trigger the duty to report exposure under OSHA.”

“Out of an abundance of caution, we temporarily relocated the employees from the area, and the City’s Department of Emergency Services sent letters to each employee recommending that they seek additional health advice from their individual health care providers,” Thielen said, in the statement.

“The City also moved up the previously planned closure for renovation work so that the City could contract an environmental consultant to test and analyze the site to ensure the safety of the employees.”