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Press Releases

March 29, 2007

David Hall
NOAA National Ocean Service
Silver Spring, Maryland (301) 713-3066 ext. 191

Lt. Col. John Williams
USARPAC Public Affairs
(Representing DoD)
Honolulu, Hawaii
(808) 438-9375


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) today released the results of a June 2006 survey of an underwater area off the Hawaiian island of Oahu where discarded military munitions are present. The survey of the area has verified the presence of munitions ranging from small arms projectiles to large-caliber artillery projectiles and naval gun ammunition. The survey was conducted by NOAA, with assistance from the University of Hawaii and the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.

No explosives or related compounds were detected in the fish samples taken during the survey. With the exception of copper, metal levels in sediment samples from the study area were low overall. Most munitions were covered with coral growth and provided some of the only refuge for fish on the otherwise uncolonized hard bottom.

The munitions were found in depths ranging from 24 feet to the maximum depth of the study area, 300 feet. Scientists did not detect the presence of the explosives cyclonite (RDX), trinitrotoluene (TNT), or tetryl during the sampling effort. A related munitions compound, dinitrotoluene (DNT), was detected in four sediment samples (three near munitions, one not associated with munitions).

During the two-week survey, requested and funded by the Department of Defense (DoD), scientists combed a five-square-nautical-mile area off Pokai Bay known as “Ordnance Reef” with sophisticated seafloor mapping and imaging equipment to determine the boundary of the munitions area and the presence or absence of munitions constituents, such as explosives and metals. The survey team deployed a remotely operated vehicle and specially trained scuba divers to collect water, fish and sediment samples for analysis by the university and two independent laboratories.

The results of the survey will serve as the basis for a DoD evaluation of the potential safety and environmental risks associated with the presence of munitions. The report may be viewed at

NOAA offices involved in the survey included the NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program, NOAA Office of Coast Survey, NOAA Office of Response and Restoration, NOAA Office of Special Projects and NOAA Fisheries Service’s Pacific Regional Office.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is celebrating 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Commission of Fish and Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

On the Internet:
U.S. Army's Unexploded Ordnance Safety Education Program:
Click here to download maps of the Ordnance Reef survey area. All maps courtesy NOAA.
Click here to view Ordnance Reef survey frequently asked questions.
Click here to view Ordnance Reef survey Report.
Click here to view Ordnance Reef survey appendices and tables.

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