Current Activities & Progress
A HURL diver retrieves a time-lapse camera from the Pisces V submersible. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) developed the camera, which recorded images of biota around munitions for three days, collecting a photograph every 3.5 minutes. UH and Smithsonian researchers will analyze these photographs to look for potential interactions between biota and the munitions. These photographs will also be used to document the degree of corrosion of the munitions. Photo credit: HURL.
A HURL diver hands a float attached to WHOI's time-lapse camera to the surface boat after retrieving it from the Pisces V submersible. Photo credit: HURL.
HURL team members recover the float and time-lapse camera from the diver after he retrieved it from the Pisces V submersible. Photo credit: HURL.
An image taken by the WHOI TowCam, a downward-looking camera system towed approximately 6 meters above the seafloor during night-time operations. The high-resolution images the TowCam collects allows UH researchers to study the distribution of munitions and other items on the seafloor and document the biota that live on and around them. This image shows an abundant population of biota living on a mine that embedded itself vertically in the seafloor. The two lasers green dots are 20 centimeters apart (approximately 8 inches). Photo credit: WHOI.
The Pisces V submersible deploys a shrimp trap near munitions. UH researchers and Environet scientists will analyze shrimp samples for the presence of munitions constituents (e.g., metals, explosives), including chemical agent. Photo credit: HURL.
UH researchers and Environet scientists designed a sampling approach that includes box core sampling. A box core sampler, shown here before and after deployment, collects information that will be analyzed to describe the abundance and diversity of small animals that live within the sediment near munitions and separately at control sites that do not contain munitions or other man-made objects. Photo credit: HURL.
The Pisces V submersible collects a brisingid sea star from construction debris on the seafloor. Because brisingids are observed frequently residing on munitions, UH researchers are collecting a few specimens to investigate whether living in close proximity to munitions has an appreciable impact on their physiology. Photo credit: HURL.
WHOI researchers retrieve the TowCam and return it to the UH Research Vessel Kaimikai-o-Kanaloa following deployment at a site of interest. Photo credit: Environet.
UH researchers and Environet scientists designed customized shrimp traps that can be deployed by the Pisces IV and V submersibles next to munitions. Here, an Environet scientist processes shrimp samples. Shrimp will be analyzed for the potential presence of munitions constituents. Photo credit: Environet.
A chemical agent expert from the U.S. Army's Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center screens the Pisces V submersible after it has returned to the deck to ensure the safety of all personnel aboard both the submersible and the UH Research Vessel Kaimikai-o-Kanaloa. Photo credit: Environet.
The Pisces V submersible sits on the aft deck of the UH Research Vessel Kaimikai-o-Kanaloa, ready for a new day of diving. Photo credit: Environet.
An Environet scientist supporting HUMMA-III processes a benthic infauna sample on-board the UH Research Vessel Kaimikai-o-Kanaloa. Photo credit: Environet.
An Environet scientist supporting HUMMA-III baits a shrimp trap that will be deployed at one of the munitions study sites. UH researchers and Environet scientists designed customized shrimp traps that can be deployed by the submersibles. Photo credit: Environet.
Environet scientists supporting HUMMA-III load the Pisces V submersible with samplers to collect sediments adjacent to underwater munitions. UH researchers and Environet scientists designed the samplers specifically for the Pisces V submersible's manipulator arms with advice from HURL pilots and engineers. Photo credit: Environet.
The Pisces V submersible collects a sediment sample next to a significantly breached munition on the seafloor. UH researchers and Environet scientists will test the sediment for munitions constituents. Photo credit: HURL.
On November 23, a full array of state-of-the-art technologies including several owned and operated by UH Manoa's School of Ocean Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) will be used to investigate sea-disposed military munitions. This research will take place south of Pearl Harbor at an area designated by the Department of Defense (DoD) as the Hawaii-05 (HI-05) site. HI-05 is a deep-water site that is suspected to contain both conventional and chemical military munitions. UH is undertaking this research in partnership with Army, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), and Environet, Inc., a local environmental consulting firm.
This effort is a continuation of previous research that used towed side-scan sonars, the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) submersibles and remotely-operated vehicles to assess the effects of the ocean environment on sea-disposed munitions and sea-disposed munitions on the ocean environment and those who use it. During a 15-day research program in 2009, UH researchers imaged approximately 2,500 conventional munitions and collected sediment and water samples within 1 to 2 meters of twenty of them as well as biota samples from the area containing munitions. At these distances, no munitions constituents - materials originating from military munitions including explosive and non-explosive materials, such as metals, and degradation, or breakdown products - were detected in the samples collected. Since 2009, a separate field of munitions that DoD has identified as suspect chemical munitions was located. The upcoming research will focus on these munitions. "The Army considers this research effort extremely important to both helping close data gaps in DoD's understanding of the effects of chemical munitions on the ocean environment and helping validate and improve upon procedures developed for investigating sea disposal sites, particularly those in deep water," said Mr. Hershell Wolfe, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health.
During this phase of the research, the UH Research Vessel Kaimikai-o-Kanaloa will be used to deploy the HURL submersibles to collect sediment, water and biological samples within 1 to 2 meters from selected munitions and at control sites for laboratory analysis. Chemical analysis of the samples for munitions constituents, including explosives and chemical agents, will be performed. The results of the samples will be evaluated to assess whether any munitions constituents detected may have the potential to affect human health or the ocean environment. During the evenings, a towed camera system operated by WHOI will be used to create highly detailed digital photographic records of the munitions disposal area. The U.S. Army's Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center is providing chemical safety and analytical support for this effort.
"Beginning in 2007, UH's partnership with the U.S. Army and Environet significantly increased Hawaii's and the world's understanding of sea-disposed munitions: how they were disposed in the past and how they have deteriorated right up to the present time. The forthcoming field program will hopefully allow us to expand our understanding of the potential environmental impact of munitions that may contain chemical agent, and develop methods for monitoring and modeling future deterioration," states UH's Principal Investigator, Dr. Margo Edwards.
The Army will make the report of this research publicly available once the data has been evaluated and the report has been approved. The Army does not anticipate this report being released prior to January 2015.
CURRENT HUMMA EFFORTS
The overarching plan of the HUMMA-III project is to conduct two separate field programs to evaluate and compare techniques for sampling and imaging DMM that have been tentatively identified as containing chemical agent. The first field program will use a combination of HOVs during the day and a towed camera system at night to collect physical samples and imagery. The second field program will use an ROV operating around the clock to collect analogous datasets. HUMMA-III reconnaissance activities will be used to identify target areas containing conventional and potentially chemical munitions. Both ROV and HOVs will collect samples of sediments, biota, and the corrosion byproducts in the vicinity of DMM. The ROV is expected to be used to collect munitions fill directly from the munitions casings. Control areas located away from munitions will be sampled to provide a comparison for samples collect near munitions. All samples not containing chemical agent will be analyzed for constituents of potential concerns (COPCs) and evaluated against relevant environmental action levels. The HUMMA team will prepare a Final Report that will entail a review of relevant and available research studies, background information, and the results of the sampling and analysis of HUMMA-III.
2007-2009 HUMMA EFFORTS
The HUMMA project team conducted a side-scan SONAR (SSS) investigation of a portion of HI-05 in August 2007. The goal of this wide-area reconnaissance survey of the area south of Pearl Harbor was to compile an inventory of reflective objects on the seafloor. Thousands of potential man-made objects were detected, including several long curvilinear trails of meter-long objects that were hypothesized to be military munitions disposed within the survey area.
In March 2009, the HUMMA project team revisited the area with the PISCES submersibles and a small ROV to assess the disposal site and search for disposed military munitions. Visual inspection of the reflective trails mapped in 2007 confirmed that they contained munitions were cast overboard from vessels as they steamed along. Munitions encountered during this investigation were visually assessed for casing integrity and images were sent to experts for munitions type identification. Water and seafloor sediment samples were collected within 1-2 meters of twenty munitions as well as at control sites located tens of meters from any munitions. Samples were analyzed onboard for chemical agent. When agent was not detected, samples were packaged and shipped to mainland laboratories for analysis for explosives and their breakdown products to assess the potential impact of the undersea munitions on human health and the environment.
In April and May 2009, a separate field effort collected human food items near where the submersibles collected water and seafloor sediment samples. The two targeted food items were the finfish Etelis coruscan (known locally as onaga) and a commonly eaten shrimp Heterocarpus laevigatus (ama ebi). Samples were caught using the same methods that commercial and recreational fishermen use (e.g., rod and reel for fish and traps for shrimp). These samples were prepared, sent to the mainland, and analyzed for deformities, eroded fins, lesions, and tumors, as well as for chemical agent, energetics, and metals.
The 2007-2009 HUMMA Final Report presented six major conclusions, summarized as:
Most munitions in the HI-05 Study Area were disposed of by vessels that were underway as munitions were cast overboard.
The integrity of munitions spans a broad spectrum, with even the best-preserved munitions casings deteriorating at a yet-to-be determined rate. Corrosion byproducts observed at the base of munitions may be the result of rusting, possibly in combination with leakage of munitions constituents.
The analytical methods used to detect munitions constituents during the program were effective. With an exception of one unconfirmed detection of mustard, neither chemical agents nor explosives were detected in any samples.
Analysis of sediment samples collected near munitions show little influence from human activities or man-made objects.
The observations and data collected do not indicate any adverse impacts on ecological health in the study area.
The risk to human health from the consumption of fish and shrimp collected near the study area are within Environmental Protection Agency acceptable risk levels.
Upon review of the 2007-2009 HUMMA Final Report, Mr. Tad Davis, then Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Environment, Safety and Occupational health stated, "University of Hawaii's School of Ocean Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) and the quality team it assembled exceeded our expectations performing an extremely complex study with scientific rigor. By providing the Army with demonstrated, proven procedures for characterizing and assessing a munitions disposal site, SOEST has made a significant contribution to the Department of Defense's understanding of the potential effects of historic sea disposal sites on the ocean environment and those that use it."
2011 HUMMA EFFORTS
In 2011, UH conducted an additional SONAR survey that expanded the coverage of the 2007 HUMMA mapping program, using the same instrumentation to locate additional DMM on the seafloor. The 2011 HUMMA SONAR survey was designed to fully characterize the extent and distribution of sea disposed military munitions within the shallower portions of HI-05, the region where the water depth did not exceed 700 m. An expected outcome of achieving this objective was improving the methodology for collecting and analyzing SONAR data, including:
Characterizing the shapes of munitions casings more clearly
Geolocating specific targets with more accuracy
Improving the effectiveness of the mapping effort by re-designing the survey strategy
Developing automated approaches for better detection of munitions in poorly reflective, sediment-covered environments
All of these goals were achieved:
Addition of a very high-resolution attitude sensor to the SONAR system produced 2011 data for overlapping features that are significantly sharper. DMM in trails identified during the 2009 HUMMA sampling effort are much easier to individually identify.
The inclusion of ultra-short baseline navigation in 2011 improved the accuracy of larger-scale (10's of meters) features in the SONAR data relative to imagery acquired using the Global Position System (GPS). Future sampling efforts will determine how effectively the improved navigation can be used to locate and repeated visit smaller targets such as munitions.
The 2011 HUMMA SONAR Survey substantially expanded the coverage of the 2007 HUMMA SONAR Survey because of the reduction in overlap between swaths of SONAR data. The 2007 HUMMA SONAR Survey produced high-resolution maps of a 69-km2 area near the northwest corner of HI-05 and a ~26-km2 area in deeper regions south of Barber's Point where potential chemical munitions had been observed. The total amount of seafloor mapped during the 2011 HUMMA SONAR Survey was ~300 km2, but because adjacent tracks did not overlap in the southern and southwestern portions of the survey area, the outline of the total area mapped in 2011 encloses an area of 471 km2. Accounting for the overlap between the 2007 and 2011 SONAR datasets, the total area mapped covers 520 km2 of seafloor.
Automated detection of small, high-intensity targets is effective in sediment-covered regions.