U.S. Army, Pacific Public Affairs Office
Throughout his recent visit to Hawaii, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Environmental, Safety and Occupational Health stressed that the Army and the military are committed to providing the public with current information about World War II era sea disposal operations.
The U.S. Army and the Department of Defense are aware that the military disposed of chemical munitions off the coast of Oahu during the close of World War II, Tad Davis said. "At that time, the only other alternatives were land-based burials and open incineration. Sea disposal was believed to be the safest of the alternatives available."
DoDís use of sea disposal followed the national and international practice, at the time. Today, DoD prohibits such disposals and relies on modern, contained technologies to safely dispose of chemical munitions and chemical agents.
One of the key factors Davis highlighted is the need for the military to work with the various local, state, and federal agencies as well as the community in gathering facts and working towards the next steps in the process. In addition to this fact finding mission, there will be three phases in this process including archival research and characterization of disposal sites, development of possible courses of action, and implementation of actions.
According to Davis, the Army is engaged in the most comprehensive archive search to date. This comprehensive effort, which includes reviewing information provided by other federal agencies, will determine, to the extent practical, the what, when, and where of sea disposal operations.
"The information obtained from this search, which will be cross-checked and validated, will be critical to characterizing disposal sites," he said. "The Army is working with its sister Services and other federal agencies to garner all available information to supplement and validate the information available."
Until the research and analysis is complete, the military is not in a position to address the actions needed, Davis said. The results of these studies or any monitoring that may be required may indicate that these munitions do not pose a hazard to the public or the environment, and the safest course of action is to leave them in place.
As part of the information sharing process, Davis is planning on returning in a few months to update community leaders as well as the local, state, and federal officials on what has been found to date.
Note: Individuals with personal knowledge of sea disposal operations in the Hawaiian Islands are encouraged to contact a local hotline which has been established in the U.S. Army, Pacific Public Affairs Office at 808-438-2662. Information received on this number will be given to the research team.