Munitions search off Makua Beach raises concern over ordnance disposal

Munitions search off Makua Beach raises concern over ordnance disposal

MAKUA BEACH, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Beginning next week, unexploded ordnance experts will use underwater metal detectors to search for military munitions off Makua Beach, focusing on a 22-acre area.

"It's about the length of two football fields and the depth of one football field," said Col. Steve Dawson, of U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii.

The search zone surrounds a spot where ordnance was found in June 2016. A recreational diver spotted a World War II artillery round wedged in the coral. The Navy detonated it in the ocean.

This time, if munitions are discovered, they'll likely be destroyed on shore.

"if we detonate the ordnance on land it will be done in an extremely safe manner," Dawson said. "The unexploded ordnance experts will build a very large sandbag enclosure around the ordnance before detonating it."

But that's cause for concern for community leaders like Micah Doane, of the group Protectors of Paradise. He worries about possible environmental impacts.

"If they're going to detonate it on land are there possible issues of depletion into the soil that are going to cause safety and health concerns for us in the future?" he said.

During World War II, the military practiced beach landings at Makua. It's possible more rounds fired from Navy ships fell short of land.

"We just think it's prudent to go back now and search as much as we can around where the shell was found in 2016," Dawson said.

Doane's thankful for the ocean search but thinks the military needs to do more inspections for munitions on shore along Makua Beach. Two years ago ordnance experts found more than a dozen munitions between Makua Beach and Kaena Point..

"To me, it would make the most sense to make sure that the areas people are frequenting the most are squared away and taken care of," he said

The underwater search will take about four weeks and is costing $3.5 million.

The search area will be off-limits to the public weekdays.

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