In 2007, the Department of Defense (DoD), through its National Defense Center for Energy and Environment (NDCEE), the Office of Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health (ODASA-ESOH), contracted Concurrent Technologies Corporation (CTC) Task No.: 0496 under Contract W74V8H-04-D-0005, which subcontracted University of Hawai‘i an Manoa (UH) and the environmental consulting firm Environet, Inc. to conduct the Hawai‘I Undersea Military Munitions Assessment (HUMMA). HUMMA’s objective in Hawai‘i was to characterize a historic deep-water munitions sea disposal site south of Pearl Harbor to determine the potential impact of the ocean environment on sea disposed munitions and of sea disposed munitions on the ocean environment and those that use it.

The Armed Services had policies and regulations that governed the sea disposal of excess, obsolete or unserviceable military munitions. The Armed Forces sea disposed excess, obsolete or unserviceable munitions, including CWM, in coastal waters off the United States prior to 1970, at which this practice was discontinued as Congress subsequently prohibited sea disposal of waste materials into the ocean in 1972.

The majority of military munitions were sea disposed at depths in excess of 600 feet. Although records of these operations and disposal sites are incomplete and scattered throughout the National Archives and other information repositories, DoD has undertaken significant archival research effort to determine or validate the exact locations of sites that contain sea disposed military munitions, and to identify both the types of munitions sea disposed and any other DoD-related material disposed at these sites. HUMMA supports the DoD in complying with the requirements of Public Law 109-364, Section 314 (Research on Effects of Ocean Disposal of Munitions).

The site for this study, which DoD designated as Hawai‘i-05 (HI-05), is located approximately 8 kilometers (km) south of Pearl Harbor, Hawai‘i. HI-05 contains both conventional and chemical discarded military munitions (DMM). Historical research shows that chemical munitions, including 16,000 M47A2 100-pound (lb) mustard-filled bombs, may have been sea disposed in this are following World War (WW)-II. To accomplish the stated goals, previous HUMMA participants designated a unique approach using innovated technologies to map and sample very small targets on the seafloor to perform the required assessment.

While ODASA-ESOH is the technical monitor of the HUMMA Program, efforts of previous HUMMA projects conducted in 2007 and 2009 had numerous successes including developing an effective, cost-efficient approach for locating sea disposed munitions and demonstrating the capability of human-occupied vehicles (HOVs) for sampling sediments and water 1-2 m from targets of interest. However, munitions potentially including chemical warfare materials (CWM) were not located and investigated during the 2007 and 2009 HUMMA Study efforts; thus, the DoD cannot make informed decisions regarding the location, impacts, risks, and alternative actions that might be taken regarding these CMW disposal locations.

The current HUMMA project, named HUMMA-III, seeks to identify and begin to close data gaps specifically addressing the green-banded munitions (likely to be chemical munitions) that have subsequently been discovered near the vicinity of the HI-05 disposal site. HUMMA-III also seeks to evaluate performance differences between HOVs and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) in visually mapping and sampling sea disposed munitions and to test a new group of sensors and instruments for their ability to conduct assessments for sea disposed munitions regarding future HUMMA efforts.