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Albertini: Mauna Kea Park & Hawaii Island contaminated with military radiation?

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By Jim Albertini | Special to Hawaii 24/7

The March 17, 2014 lead front-page story in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald said that Hawaii County Mayor, Billy Kenoi, wants Hawaii County to take over management of what is presently Mauna Kea State park. Does that mean Hawaii County will take over the liability if it is determined that the park is contaminated with Depleted Uranium (DU) radiation and people using the park are harmed? The park is adjacent to the 133,000-acre military Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA) that has been the target of more than 60 years of military bombing involving millions of live rounds fired annually.

In August of 2007, after years of denial, the military confirmed it had fired hundreds (possibly thousands) of DU spotting rounds on PTA ranges approximately 1 mile south of Mauna Kea Park. On May 29, 2007, three months before the military’s official confirmation of DU use at PTA, a citizen radiation monitor at Mauna Kea park detected radiation spikes well above background radiation with strong winds coming from PTA to the south toward Mauna Kea park with dust devils clearly visible. Since that time citizen radiation monitors have picked up more above background radiation spikes on several occasions in Mauna Kea park and the vicinity.

Despite these off base radiation readings, no comprehensive testing and monitoring has been done at PTA, Mauna Kea park, or elsewhere to determine the extent of radiation contamination, and if, and how far, it has spread. In fact, less than 1% of PTA has been surveyed for DU, and that with questionable methodology.

Our organization is aware of three MDs and a Naturopathic doctor in Hilo who have patients that tested high for uranium in 24 hour heavy metal urine tests. There appears to be a need for further testing and research to determine the cause of such uranium in urine and if it is related to PTA. In March of 2013 our organization requested PTA to offer 24 hour urine tests to some of its long term workers to see if uranium was showing up in their urine but the PTA commander, Lt. Col. Eric Shwedo, declined our request.

It should also be noted that on July 2, 2008 the Hawaii County Council, by a vote of 8-1, passed Resolution 639-08 calling for a halt to all live-fire at PTA due to the presence of DU radiation The resolution also called for clean up of the DU along with several other action points. The Army has ignored the Council’s call despite Army regulation 700-48 which says the Army must follow such requests by local governments.

Regardless of who is liable –federal, state, and/or county governments, there are potentially serious health and safety concerns for residents and visitors with the increased use of Saddle Road, frequent strong winds and occasional flash flooding in the area, and military bombing of a base known to be contaminated with DU and other military toxins. When will public officials take responsible action to address these concerns? For now the answer is “Blowing in the Wind.”

Jim Albertini
Kurtistown

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