Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that the House unanimously passed H.R. 2584, a bill he introduced to provide a decommissioned NOAA vessel to the residents of Utrők Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
“I am pleased to announce that this morning, by voice vote, the House passed legislation I introduced that would assist our friends from Utrők Atoll as they continue efforts to resettle and rehabilitate their islands as a result of the effects of the United States nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“I would like to thank Chairman Richard Pombo and Ranking Member Nick Rahall of the Resources Committee for their continued support of Pacific Island issues. I would also like to thank my distinguished colleagues and co-sponsors, Congressmen Aníbal Acevedo-Vilá (PR), Dan Burton (R-IN), John Doolittle (R-CA) Elton Gallegly (R-CA), Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU).”
“This important legislation authorizes the Secretary of Commerce to convey a decommissioned, operable NOAA vessel to the Government of Utrők, which would be used to provide support for radiological monitoring, rehabilitation and resettlement of Utrők Atoll. The Marshall Islands were devastated by the effects of the U.S. Nuclear Testing activities during the 1940’s and 50’s and Utrők was one of four atolls acknowledged by the U.S. Government as suffering unsafe radiological exposure,” the Congressman said.
“The atoll’s residents were forced to evacuate 72 hours after the miscalculated Bravo shot, but two months later, its people were assured it was safe to return home. We know now that this was a grave mistake because Utrők’s residents have since suffered increased radiological illnesses and birth defects. Today, the people of Utrők are seeking to rehabilitate their home island so that it is a safe place to live.”
“Last year a comprehensive scientific report recommended a potassium fertilizer treatment to accompany the ongoing resettlement process on Utrők, a treatment which would suppress the remaining radioactive Cesium-137 in the soil and prevent its further uptake in the food supply. In addition, the U.S. Department of Energy concluded a MOU with Utrők that committed the DOE to build a Whole Body Counting (WBC) facility in Majuro in order to monitor radioactivity levels in the people of Utrők. However, Utrők residents are responsible for their own transportation to Majuro, and transportation by plane is expensive and unreliable, and travel by commercial ships is infrequent and unfeasible,” the Congressman explained.
“One solution to help facilitate transport between Utrők and Majuro is to transfer a decommissioned NOAA vessel to the Utrők Atoll Local Government. In addition, the vessel will be used for moving several tons of potassium fertilizer, transporting equipment and materials for radiological remediation, and transporting USDA food supplies. Because of the Cesium-137 contamination in locally grown food, at least 50% of the diet of Utrők residents must be imported to limit the risk of radiological poisoning.”
“Earlier this year the Utrők Atoll Local Government adopted a resolution (022-03) stating that the NOAA vessel transfer would be ‘one of the crucial needs that will fully support our future goals to develop, rehabilitate and resettle the atoll after the aftermath of the ‘Bravo’ fallout.’ The Utrők Government also expects the ship to be available for use by other atolls for their respective communities, who will help pay for the ongoing maintenance of the vessel.”
“As the Ranking Member of the House International Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, I am pleased to be able to assist the people of the RMI in their efforts to rehabilitate their island homes. I am also pleased that the House has recognized the importance of this legislation and I am hopeful that this bill will remind the Congress of our ongoing responsibility to the people of RMI for the terrible mistakes the United States made during the nuclear testing activities,” the Congressman concluded.