USA — There is a new twist to the viral video spiral that made headlines all over the world last week.
This video, filmed by Hawaiis Department of Land and Natural Resources, has been appearing all over the internet and on television sets around the world, thanks to YouTube and the associated press.
Now, some anti-military activists say its possible that the ongoing brush fire on the slopes of Mauna Kea could be kicking up trace amounts of depleted uranium, which was used decades ago in firing exercises at the Armys adjacent Pohakuloa Training Area.
Which means that the incredible fire-tornado brush fire (which in actuality was more like a dust devil created by a combination of the dry heat and the swirling winds of Saddle Road) could have been radioactive, if you believe the theories being proffered by Jim Albertini and the Malu-Aina group.
The Army has admitted to the use of depleted uranium in the 1960s, deployed in spotting rounds used in then-classified Davy Crockett weapons systems. The Army says the depleted uranium is no longer being fired at the range, and has assured the public that there is no imminent or immediate threat to human health from the DU present on Hawaiis ranges.
Albertini is not ready to believe the Army, however, and has been a vocal watchdog on the matter of DU. At a recent meeting in Keaau, Albertini recalled a day of protest in 2007, when his measuring instruments detected a spike in radiation after a dust devil swept through Mauna Kea State Park.
The current brush fire is surrounding the same location, and while there is no way of knowing if the flaming dust devil filmed last week kicked up any radioactive particles, some members of the community want it tested now.
The brush fire at or near the Pohakaloa Training Area presents a serendipitous opportunity to sample airborne particulates and aerosols for evidence of depleted uranium, wrote Michael Reimer, the Ph.D. and retired geologist who has been following the Armys DU monitoring efforts, in an email. I believe the Department of Health should immediately assemble a crew and sampling equipment for this purpose. I am sure there are contractors in the state or even the University of Hawaii that can do this task using the proper 0.45 micron filters if the Radiological Health Branch does not have the equipment. Even if the budget does not permit analysis at this time for DU and its associated isotopes, the samples can be stored. This is an opportunity that should not pass without response.
Reimers effort was apparently to no avail. Albertini says the testing never took place.
The Army offers the following information on its website concerning DU and brush fires:
Under certain circumstances and at very high temperatures, DU can aerosolize. Research by military and non-military agencies confirm that this does not occur during brush fires. Re-suspension is primarily due to particle size rather than particle density or chemical form. We believe that the primary reason for immobilization is due to the large particle size of the uranium and the fact that the uranium primarily exists as large metal fragments. Among other factors, the soil types on Hawaiis ranges also serve to limit DU migration from the impact area. Although it is highly unlikely that DU will move off the impact area due to military live-fire training, air monitoring and sampling will be conducted to ensure that migration is not occurring.
The Army plans to hold a special meeting at the Pohakuloa Training Area today (August 31) on the issue of depleted uranium. Albertini plans to hold a press conference of his own outside the gate immediately following the Armys presentation. Big Island Video News plans to have coverage of the event.
Meanwhile, the DLNR reports that state, county and federal fire fighting teams have made good progress in fighting the ongoing fire along Saddle Road. Fire weather conditions also improved with less smoke and improved visibility on Monday.
Burn area acreage has remained at 1,387 acres and 70 percent contained. On Monday, 90 firefighters were on scene along with nine fire engines and two helicopters to continue water drops and mop up of burned areas by extinguishing or removing burning material along or near the control line.
As for the phenomenon of the fire tornado Its a sure bet that radioactive or not the fiery twister is enough to send anybody with common sense running in the opposite direction.