Army to Test Hawai’I for Depleted Uraranium Pollution

July 7th, 2007 - by admin

Kristine Kubat / Big Island Weekly – 2007-07-07 01:21:44

DU Monitoring to Begin
Davis Outlines Army’s Voluntary Plan

Kristine Kubat / Big Island Weekly

HONOLULU (July 5, 2007) — According to his bio: “Addison D. Davis, IV (Tad) was appointed by the president of the United States to serve as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health … His responsibilities span a global organization that includes over a $1 billion annual environmental program and oversight for the safety and occupational health of over 1.2 million soldiers and Army civilian employees worldwide.”

Davis is responsible for managing the Army’s response to concerns about the use of depleted uranium in Hawai`i. An unsuccessful attempt was made to include comments from him as part of the BIW’s recent article on the subject — “Risky Business”/ June 27th.

BIW caught-up with Davis in his office at the Pentagon June 29th, at which point he was given an opportunity to make corrections to the June 27th article. He did not take exception to anything written there.

“It did an excellent job of laying out the issues and the people involved. It is a good departure point,” Davis said of the article.

While Davis went on to assure BIW that the Army would do “the right thing” with regards to DU, trying to establish a framework within which that could be determined proved difficult. Davis’s use of the word “contamination” suggests a great deal, yet he was unwilling to answer the question of whether depleted uranium is harmful. When asked if he was maintaining the official Department of Defense position that DU is safe, he declined to answer.

“My official position is that we need to determine whether DU is present,” said Davis.

“We know there are munitions,” he explained. “Between August and September of 2005, the Army found 13 tail sections of 20mm Davy Crockett firing rounds. These parts were tested and found to contain DU … they have since been transported back to the mainland.”

By studying the Army’s records, Davis was able to determine that 714 Davy Crocketts were shipped to O’ahu in the 1960s. From there the history is less clear; in other words, the Army is unable to account for the rounds.

Clearly some were used at Schofield Barracks where the tail sections were found. A preliminary survey by the Army Corps of Engineers indicates that the lay of the land at both Makua Valley and two different sites at Pohakuloa is suitable for exercises the Army was conducting with the munitions at the time.

This means there is a potential that fragments from the missing DU rounds could be found on firing ranges at these three locations in addition to Schofield. Accounting for the missing rounds through such research will continue along a parallel track to what Davis calls his “four-part plan.”

First comes his pledge to share all the information and data the Army obtains with the public health department. “Most of it already has been shared,” he claims.

Next is his commitment to undertake a survey, starting in August, that will look at Schofield, Pohakuloa and Makua Valley. Here the Army will work with the Department of Health, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Davis says the CDC’s participation is critical, not only because of their expertise but because, as an external agency, they lend credibility to the process. The main thrust of the survey will be tests on air, water and soil samples taken from areas around the live-fire ranges — just what Representative Josh Green hoped to accomplish with his legislation H.B. 1452.

Davis expects a report to be completed in the fall.

Part three of the Army’s plan is a response to what the survey finds. Again, the effort will not be unilateral but a collective effort between the same parties with the UH-Hilo and the UXO community included.

It is telling that Hawai`i has what can be called a “UXO community” — this to deal with the large number of unexploded ordinances that cover the local landscape.

Davis is very cautious at this point in the conversation not to get into the issue of aerosolized DU. He will say that DU fragments in the “footprint of UXOs adds to the risk.” His statement is left to beg the question what the risks might be.

The fourth and final part of Davis’ plan is to train DoH personnel. He describesRussell Takata of the DoH’s radiation branch as “pretty sophisticated,” before adding that the Army is prepared to take Hawai`i’s public health officials to even higher levels of expertise. His goal here is to ensure that, in the future, DoH can handle the issue of DU contamination independently.

Davis said he learned of Rep. Green’s request that Dr. Lorrin Pang be a party to the monitoring process by reading “Risky Business.” Dr. Pang, a public health official who is highly regarded by the activist community, has stated his willingness to participate and provide oversight. Davis’s response to Green’s request: “I think we’d defer to the state on that . . . My inclination is to take very seriously a request from the state to that effect.”

Davis had nothing to say about the possibility of contamination on Kaho`olawe other than to suggest that those concerned about it contact the Navy. It was this branch of the military conducting live fire operations there in the 1960s and ’70s.

Besides touting his four-part plan, Davis was anxious to make the point that DU will not be used by the Stryker Brigade during training exercises in Hawai`i. “We have to obtain a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to use DU . . . we have not done that and we have no plans to do that in the future.”

Davis maintained his distance from broader questions about the use of DU saying he preferred to concentrate on the issue as it relates to the people of Hawai`i. When told that the larger issue is important as a moral issue to many people here, and that most of the activists involved were initially concerned about DU use abroad, Davis became reticent.

The interview concluded with Davis and PR person David Foster promising to get back to the BIW on that and other questions forwarded earlier. These preliminary questions asked how the military comes by its broad generalizations that DU is safe and how the precautinary principal applies to the Army’s approach of continuing use of DU when there is much evidence it may not be.

Back to the subject of DU in Hawai`i Davis said: “I want the people to know we’re not just walking away from this.”

Small World Big Island
Kristine Kubat / Big Island Weekly

(July 5, 2007) — In our February 14th issue of Big Island Weekly, Representative Josh Green received our “Bust da Moves” Award. The award is our way of recognizing Hawai`i Island folk who are making bold moves with the goal of creating positive change.

Rep. Green was acknowledged for introducing H.B. 1452 — legislation that directed the Department of Health to test for the presence of depleted uranium in areas adjacent to military bases in Hawai`i.

At the time, there was much speculation about the possible use of DU in the islands and a growing contingent of citizens concerned about exposure to the radioactive heavy metal. Green’s legislation was a way to displace speculation with fact. While H.B. 1452 made it through all legislative committees dealing with its subject matter, it failed to pass the Finance Committee.

No dough, no go; or so it seemed.

In the end, the political will generated in response to Green’s bold move brought the issue before a lot of discerning folk who in turn put pressure on the military. Now it seems the concerned citizens will get their way.

In our previous issue, BIW published two articles on the subject of DU. While researching the matter we reached out to Army and department of health officials for comment but were, relatively, unsuccessful. We got little bites from small fish. Then we received word that Tad Davis, the Army official charged with handling DU contamination here ( in another words, “the man”), was anxious to speak with us and go on record outlining the Army’s plan.

Timing prevented us from interviewing Davis prior to publishing last week’s articles; his comments are reported on page five this week.

There were, however, some other interesting comments made during the interview that didn’t make it to page five.

Davis started out by saying that he’d “be happy to talk to me about DU or anything else” — an opener he probably regretted.

I had already canvassed the office to see if anyone else had questions for the Pentagon. I mean, it’s not every day you get to talk to these guys and I wanted to share the op.

Our assistant Attila Tacaks, aka “Super Intern,” wanted to know if that plane really did crash into the Pentagon. George Madden, our production manager, wanted to know what is really going on at Area 51. So I asked Davis their questions in that order.

Interestingly, Davis did not say “yes” to the first question. I invite anyone with that concern to come to the Pentagon and see for themselves — is pretty much what he said.

As for the second question: “That’s not my area,” said Davis.

So much for talking about just any old thing.

Most interesting was Davis’s reaction to my question about contamination in Iraq. He went completely silent . . . so long that the public relations officer, who had set-up the interview and disappeared into the background as soon as it began, resurfaced to break the uncomfortable silence.

“Uh, Kristine, could you repeat that? ” said Army Public Affairs officer Dave Foster.

“Sure. Is the soil in Iraq contaminated with DU?”

Uh . . . well . . . we . . . will have to get back to you on that. Again, I’m paraphrasing, but that was pretty much it, that and an assurance that they would come-up with an acceptable answer. To which I replied, “The truth will do.”

Later, when Davis regained his balance, he tried to dismiss the question by saying he wanted to focus on the concerns of the people in Hawai`i. I helped him understand that Hawai`i people, being people of aloha, didn’t make those kind of distinctions.

What does all this have to do with Josh Green?

Plenty. Green is the one who brought the issue front and center, and, well, a great move once busted, goes a long way. In this case, straight to the Pentagon.

Kristine Kubat is editor of Big Island Weekly. Contact her at or (808) 930-8668.

In accordance with Title U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.