New way to recover underwater munitions underway

John Coughlin
John Coughlin
J.C. King
J.C. King

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

WAIANAE (HawaiiNewsNow) - A former dumping ground becomes a testing ground. Work is underway to recover discarded World War II bombs off the Waianae Coast.  We're halfway through a first of its kind testing phase to gather munitions out at sea, but being a pilot project not everything has gone exactly as planned.

Picking up the bombs has gone well but the baskets they are put it in kept flipping over so after some trouble shooting they added floats to the sides so they'd stay right side up.

"It's just little things like that that get magnified underwater and slow your progress," said John Coughlin, ARA Incorporated, the company contracted for the job.

There have also been some software and GPS glitches for the robot that picks up the munitions and that's limited mobility.

"Everything has gone not as planned but we've overcome every problem and now we have munitions we're working on out on the barge," said Coughlin.

They've picked up about 10 bombs and have now started the next phase which is cutting them open and essentially baking the explosives until they decompose all of which is being done about a mile from shore.

"The technologies used on the barge are proven, we've used them on land but they've never used configured and mounted on a barge so all this is kind of a first time run through," said J.C. King, U.S. Army Assistant for Munitions.

There are an estimated 1,500 potentially dangerous munitions in this area.  The Army won't collect them all.  Ones with coral growing on top of it or that are encrusted into the ocean floor they'll leave alone.  Instead the mission is to perfect the technology that will be used around the country to recover ordnance once they work out the kinks.

"We realize that we have plan A. If plan A doesn't work you go to plan B and we're on plan B, C and D in some cases," said King.

Work will continue through this month and a possibly the first few days into August as well.

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