Military paintballs found at Okinawa dams
January 20, 2007
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Okinawa and U.S. officials continue to investigate the source of some 7,900 rounds of paintballs and other ammunition found at the bottom of two dams in northern Okinawa.
The dams are near the Northern Training Area, a remote Marine base used by all U.S. military services on Okinawa. Paintballs are used there routinely for training.
A spokesman for the Okinawa Prefectural Police in Nago said Wednesday that the recovered material is being stored at the Nago Police Station.
“A total of 7,895 paintballs and 21 blank rifle cartridges were recovered,” the spokesman said. “Additionally, one flare and one hand grenade were found lying on the bank of the reservoir. We have word from the Ground Self-Defense Force that they are all for training purposes and pose no danger.”
“The question is why they were there,” he said. “Were they intentionally thrown into the reservoirs or did they accidentally fall from vehicles?”
First Lt. Garron Garn, a Marine media relations officer, said Wednesday the source of the paintballs and ammunition had not been determined, adding that the Marine Corps was cooperating with Nago police in the investigation.
A spokesman for the Okinawa General Bureau, a Japanese government agency that manages seven reservoirs on Okinawa, said the paintballs first were discovered at Fukuchi Dam on Jan. 5 during a routine water quality check.
Results of a water analysis will be available soon, said Toshiro Tokunaga, chief of the Okinawa General Bureau’s Reservoir Coordination Office. However, he said, there appears to be no deterioration of the water quality.
A second discovery of paintballs was made on Jan. 11.
“At one of the checkpoints where we take water samples on regular basis, three bags, which seemed to be similar to the one recovered the previous week, were spotted 1.7 meters below the surface,” Tokunaga said. “Scattered near the bags were more than 10 red and blue individual paintballs.”
After discovering the large amount of paintballs, the bureau decided to check all seven reservoirs, he said. On Monday, a flare was found on the shore of Arakawa Dam, located about 3 miles north of Fukuchi Dam, also near the Northern Training Area.
Tokunaga said it was the first time he has heard of paintball ammunition being found at government reservoirs on Okinawa.
Reiji Fumoto, councilor for the prefectural government’s Military Affairs Office, visited the Marine Corps headquarters Wednesday, requesting the military tightly control its disposal of ammunition.
“The reservoirs are the major water supplies for Okinawa,” Fumoto said. “Fortunately, these ammunitions had no effect on the water quality. Still, the fact that the ammunition was sitting on the bottom of the reservoir gave great anxiety to the people of Okinawa.
“We asked the military to investigate the cause and to take measures to enhance the safe control of ammunition,” he said.