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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, October 4, 2002

Bellows project damaged burial site, group says

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

WAIMANALO — An environmental watchdog group claims that an ordnance removal project at Bellows Air Force Station has resulted in the probable destruction and disinterment of ancient human burial remains.

The results of the project, conducted under an Army Corps of Engineer contract in 2000, became apparent only this year when EnviroWatch Inc. was researching a June 2002 pollution report, said Joe Ryan, vice president of the organization.

An Army Corps of Engineer spokesman said the agency hasn't received any formal complaint but will investigate the charges.

"We're looking at the allegations very seriously," said Alexander Kufel, spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers.

EnviroWatch said it sent a formal complaint this week to the state Office of Historic Preservation and the U.S. Department of Interior, asking for an investigation.

The Office of Historic Preservation is aware of the complaint, but Kai Markell, burial director, could not be reached for comment.

Ryan said the contract for the project called for the removal of ordnance from the top six inches of soil from the Nike Missile Site on the Waimanalo base. The state Historic Preservation Officer was informed that the work was to be done by hand, he said.

EnviroWatch determined in June, through court documents, observation, photos and a map that the contractor radically altered the grade of the land using a bulldozer, Ryan said.

Three sets of human remains were discovered in the area before the bulldozing, he said, adding that there was a high probability that more remains were in the area and were disturbed by the work. The site also contained two documented historical sites.

A document used in an unrelated federal lawsuit indicated that the grade in some areas was lowered by more than six feet or covered by more than four feet, Ryan said.