EXCLUSIVE: Radford contamination investigation uncovered suspected ordnance

EXCLUSIVE: Radford contamination investigation uncovered suspected ordnance
Published: Aug. 6, 2015 at 11:37 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 7, 2015 at 12:32 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Less than a week before construction on Radford High School's track came to a halt last year, workers made some unusual finds: a six-inch wide mortar fuse and an 18-inch copper sphere that one Department of Education contractor suspected was a naval mine.

Also excavated were several spent shell casings from a 50-caliber gun.

"It's scary. These things on public property. It could have been anybody who found this stuff," said state Rep. Chris Lee, chairman of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee.

"There's a real concern of course, safety first and foremost. These are dangerous things to be left out in the open."

The suspected ordnance did not contain any live ammunition and was quickly destroyed by the military. Previous news reports mentioned that the soil contained unsafe levels of lead, mercury and asbestos.

But hundreds of pages of documents included in a state Health Department investigation suggest that the problem may be even bigger than many suspected.

The newly revealed Health Department records also showed that the dirt contained high levels of barium, which can be highly toxic.

Photos included in the records also showed a large amount of scrap metal, engine parts and chemical waste. The Department has issued a $1.1 million fine against the D.O.E. and its contractors over its handling of thousands of tons toxic soil from the Radford, where the Navy had operated a dump before the school was built.

Most of that contaminated soil wound up stockpiled at a residential development in Kapolei but several tons were sent to a Kaneohe home and a Kailua landfill.

The DOE declined comment on the documents. Last month, a spokesman said the suspected ordnance was investigated by the Navy, Honolulu Police and the Health Department.

The documents also indicate that the security was lax on the site. MEI Corp., a consultant hired by the D.O.E., said a trucking company with no affiliation with the state or its contractors was able to gain access to the site on Dec. 18, 2013 and took two truckloads of contaminated dirt.

"The truck was loaded by one of the MEI operators and left without the MEI supervisor taking note," wrote MEI project manager Zack Taylor.

"Unfortunately, (the company) was able to slip in unnoticed during the heavy crush of dump trucks that afternoon."

That truck wound up delivering 40 tons of that soil to a home in the gated Haiku Plantations community in Kaneohe, where the unsuspecting owner used the dirt as backfill to expand his yard.

But the homeowner later became suspicious when he discovered glass and metal debris in the soil. The Navy has since dug up all of the questionable dirt and has transferred it to a landfill.

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