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Depleted uranium munitions cause concern near Oahu military base

by Bobby Command
West Hawaii Today 
Thursday, April 26, 2007 8:37 AM HST  (Must register at their website to view original article)

A number of Hawaii residents are calling for the governor to sign a bill that would test the soil within 500 meters of Schofield Barracks for depleted uranium.

The legislation, introduced by Kailua-Kona Rep. Josh Green, calls for soil around the Army post to be tested quarterly and the results forwarded to the Legislature each year.

"There's been evidence already that the Army has been using depleted uranium in Hawaii," said Cory Harden, a Mountain View resident who is backing Green's bill. "There is also evidence that the depleted uranium causes birth defects and can get into the soil, water and air."

West Hawaii Today also has received a number of e-mails asking for recipients to contact Gov. Linda Lingle and urge her to sign the bill.

In 2006, a company conducting clean up operations at Schofield Barracks on Oahu discovered depleted uranium in the tail assemblies of obsolete ordnance that was used in the early 1960s.

Prior to that, the Army had denied any use in Hawaii of depleted uranium, which is used in armor-piercing projectiles because of its density and ability to burn spontaneously.

Following the discovery, the Army said it did not intentionally mislead the public when it said the substance was not used in Hawaii.

Harden said she is worried that the substance may be used at Pohakuloa. "I wouldn't be surprised, since many of the troops stationed at Schofield also train at Pohakuloa."

Green said his bill originally called for testing all military installations for such radioactive substances. "But these things take a life of their own once they leave my computer," he said.

"That being said, it will be a lot easier for us to expand the testing if this initial bill is passed," Green said. "And the bottom line is we just want to be sure that this is not getting into the environment, not just because it's radioactive, but also because it is a dangerous heavy metal."

Kendrick Washington II, media relations officer for the U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii, said there are strict regulations regarding the use of the substance.

"Army policy prohibits the use of depleted uranium ammunition in training," Washington said. He did not provide any other comment.

But Harden, who claims the United States is illegally occupying Hawaii, said she has opposed other military proposals and doubts the veracity of its statements.

"They haven't told us the truth in the past, so why should we believe them now?" said Harden, who added that the Army denied any usage of depleted uranium before it was discovered at Schofield Barracks.

Despite her statements, Harden said she is not necessarily against the military. "There are two sides to the issue. Some say they protect us and others say they make us a target," she said. "If they are here with the permission of the Hawaiian nation, then I think it is OK."