Health Department now involved in lead probe at Oahu’s only public shooting range

The possibility of lead contamination is an issue the city wasn’t initially forthcoming about.
Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 5:14 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 22, 2022 at 6:30 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Multiple investigations are underway after blood tests showed almost the entire staff at Koko Head Shooting Complex has elevated lead levels.

Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health has taken the lead on a probe into worker safety.

The state Department of Health is also looking into potential environmental impacts.

Hawaii News Now confirmed that six days ago a Hazard Evaluation and Emergency Response team conducted a preliminary inspection of the shooting range.


Officials said the inspection looked at possible environmental impact and disposal practices.

A HIOSH spokesperson said in an email the state is currently waiting for the city to turn over a list of records. Specifically, they’ve asked for documents that show how the range was disposing of and or recycling metal, along with information on what was done with any lead contaminated casings, wipes and soil.

The state also wants all records the city may have on what’s called hazardous waste determination. That’s a procedure used to find out whether a waste is a hazardous waste.

Meanwhile, DOH says it’s up to the city to test for lead on-site. The city Parks Department confirms it has hired the necessary environmental consultants.

The possibility of lead contamination is an issue the city wasn’t initially forthcoming about.

Officials abruptly closed the complex in mid-September, citing staffing issues, and for six weeks refused to answer any of our questions.

Former range officer Chris Wong is among those demanding accountability.

“I do believe the city has a responsibility to protect its workers,” he said.

Wong is one of at least two former employees who say they notified the city years ago after tests showed they too had elevated lead levels.

HNN Investigates also uncovered documents that show the city has been aware of lead contamination at the range for at least two decades, but did little to protect its workers or educate them about the potential danger.

“If they knew there were environmental hazards it should have been prioritized a lot higher,” Wong said.

In the meantime, Oahu gun owners are still without a public range.

“It feels like we have an uphill battle here,” said gun enthusiast Spencer Hisatake.

Some say they’re unsure the city will do what’s necessary to reopen the complex.

“We don’t really have a vote of confidence that the government is going to do the right thing,” Hisatake said.

The city has said its goal is to reopen the range. But it doesn’t have a timeline for when it could happen.

HNN has asked officials at the Honolulu Parks Department on multiple occasions what kind of on-site testing will be conducted and when it’s expected to start. So far, there has been no answer.