In the twentieth century 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 chemical munitions and containers of bulk chemical agent (together referred to as chemical warfare material or CWM), in coastal waters off the United States prior to 1970, at which time it discontinued this practice. 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 a 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.
Historical research shows that the Armed Forces disposed of conventional military munitions in Hawaiian waters off O‘ahu between 1920 and 1951. It also shows that the Armed Forces disposed of CWM off O‘ahu between 1933 and 1946. The Department of Defense (DoD) is interested in developing an understanding of the potential impact of sea-disposed military munitions, including CWM, on human health and the environment. As a part of this effort, the Army, working with the UH and Environet, a Hawaii based environmental consulting firm, selected a historic sea-disposal site (HI-05) in the vicinity of the entrance of Pearl Harbor off O‘ahu.
In October 2007 the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health (ODASA-ESOH) under the National Defense Center for Energy and Environment (NDCEE), contracted Concurrent Technologies Corporation (CTC) to undertake the Hawai‘i Undersea Military Munitions Assessment (HUMMA). CTC contracted the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa (UH) to perform the required assessment. Although the 2007 contract has since been completed, the HUMMA program has continued through additional contracts with CTC and the U.S. Army's Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate. HUMMA-III is scheduled for additional study in 2012-2015.
Efforts of previous HUMMA projects conducted in 2007, 2009 and 2011 had numerous successes including developing effective, cost-efficient approaches for locating sea disposed munitions and demonstrating the capability of human-occupied vehicles (HOVs) for sampling sediments and water 1-2 meters from targets of interest. However, munitions potentially including CWM were not located and investigated during the 2009 HUMMA sampling efforts. HUMMA-III will identify and specifically assess green-banded munitions (likely to be chemical munitions) that were discovered within HI-05 after the 2009 HUMMA operations had been completed. HUMMA-III also has technological objectives, including evaluating the ability of different types of platforms, HOVs and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), to sample near sea disposed munitions and testing additional sensors and instruments for their ability to conduct assessments of sea disposed munitions.