Oahu’s only public shooting range closed indefinitely as probe into possible lead contamination begins
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city has no timeline for when Oahu’s only public shooting range will reopen as an investigation into elevated lead levels in the majority of workers at the facility begins.
The city confirmed nine of 10 staff members at the shooting complex who were tested have lead levels above the normal range. Two additional staff members declined to get tested.
A timeline of exactly when the city first became aware current employees had been exposed to lead remains unclear. Officials would only tell Hawaii Nes Now it was brought to their attention this year.
RELATED: After dodging questions, city confirms several workers at shooting range have elevated lead levels
What we do know is that on Sept. 16, parks officials abruptly closed the complex ― two weeks ahead of a planned berm renovation project. A city news release cited staffing issues and did not mention the lead levels.
Meanwhile, city parks officials say physical work on that project has yet to begin.
Henry Curtis, executive director of Life of the Land, urged heath officials to investigate.
“It’s a really serious issue that needs to be addressed,” Curtis said.
HNN has confirmed the Department of Health is not involved at this time.
“We’d like to know where the lead contamination is, what levels exist,” Curtis said. “And what efforts are being made to contain it and mitigate it.”
Those are all questions city park’s officials haven’t answered or are still investigating.
Environmentalists believe the lead contamination is an issue that spans beyond Koko Head Shooting Complex.
“I’ve been dealing with a similar situation in Puuloa, for the Puuloa training facility,” said Keili McEvilly, coordinator for Surfrider Foundation’s Oahu chapter.
Earlier this month, a report released by Surfrider Foundation Oahu revealed sandy soils on the back side of the military’s impact berms in Ewa Beach are severely contaminated with lead.
“Up to 70 times the health standard for residential areas, right next to a public beach access, right next to residential areas, next to people fishing,” said McEvilly.
Sierra Club Executive DIrector Wayne Tanaka added:
“The situation raises question as to the safety of other areas that are being used as firing range sites.”
Meanwhile, those who use the range are seeking more information.
Avid gun enthusiast Spencer Hisatake called the Koko Head Shooting Complex a precious resource.
“The health and safety of the public is paramount. But before anyone jumps to conclusions we need to get facts first on how range staff came to have those elevated lead levels,” Hisatake said.
The city Parks Department says it has retained an environmental consultant but has yet to find a consultant that specializes in analyzing and assisting with shooting range activities.
“(On their properties), the military is looking at where contamination is and how to clean it up,” said Curtis. “And we would hope the city would have the same approach.”
Meanwhile, City Councilmember Tommy Waters, who represents the area where the shooting range is located, said he’s shocked by the city’s admission.
He added he’s working on a Council resolution to examine safety policies and procedures for Parks staff at the range and is also seeking an update on safety measures long-term.
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