HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Multiple investigations are underway after blood tests showed nearly all staff at the Koko Head Shooting Complex have elevated lead levels.
Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health has taken the lead in an investigation into worker safety.
The State Department of Health is also studying the possible environmental impacts.
Hawaii News Now confirmed that a hazard assessment and emergency response team conducted a preliminary inspection of the shooting range six days ago.
Officials said the inspection looked at potential environmental impact and disposal practices.
A HIOSH spokesman said in an email that the state is currently waiting for the city to submit a list of records. Specifically, they have requested documents showing how the range disposed of and/or recycled the metal, along with information about what was done with the lead-contaminated casings, wipes and soil.
The state also wants any records the city may have on what’s called a hazardous waste determination. This is a procedure used to find out if a waste is a hazardous waste.
Meanwhile, DOH says it is up to the city to test the site for lead. The city’s Parks Department confirms it has hired the necessary environmental consultants.
The possibility of lead contamination is a problem that the city did not initially consider.
Officials abruptly closed the resort in mid-September, citing staffing issues, and for six weeks refused to answer any of our questions.
Former ranking officer Chris Wong is among those calling for accountability.
“I think the city has a responsibility to protect its workers,” he said.
Wong is one of at least two former employees who say they alerted the city years ago after tests showed they also had elevated lead levels.
HNN Investigates also uncovered documents showing the city has been aware of lead contamination at the range for at least two decades, but did little to protect its workers or educate them about the potential danger.
“If they knew there were environmental hazards, it should have been given a much higher priority,” Wong said.
Meanwhile, gun owners on Oahu still don’t have a public range.
“Looks like we have an uphill battle here,” said gun enthusiast Spencer Hisatake.
Some say they aren’t sure the city will do what it takes to reopen the complex.
“We don’t really have a vote of confidence that the government will do the right thing,” Hisatake said.
The City Council has said that its goal is to reopen the field. But he has no timetable for when it might happen.
HNN has asked Honolulu Parks Department officials several times what kind of testing will be done on site and when it is expected to begin. So far, there has been no response.
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