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Chemical from tire plant kills fish in northeastern Japan river

Toyo Tire Corp. Sendai Plant workers are seen collecting dead fish in the Gokenbori River in Iwanuma, Miyagi Prefecture, on Oct. 3, 2019. (Mainichi/Masaru Yoshida)

IWANUMA, Miyagi -- A school of fish was found dead in a river here after some 250 liters of disinfectant chemical used at a tire plant leaked into the water, a river quality observatory council announced on Oct. 3.

    According to the Sendai River and National Highway Office of the land ministry's Tohoku Regional Development Bureau, at around 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 2, a local resident reported to the Iwanuma Municipal Government that a large number of fish had been found dead in the Gokenbori River near Iwanuma Junior High School. After being informed by the city government, the Miyagi Prefectural Government conducted a water quality survey and concluded that sodium hypochlorite typically used in disinfection that leaked from Toyo Tire Corp.'s Sendai Plant had caused the deaths of the fish.

    According to the tire company, the chemical is used to sterilize cooling water when manufacturing tires. The chemical usually gets diluted and is released into the Gokenbori River near the plant. This time, however, a high concentration of sodium hypochlorite leaked into the water for some reason. The plant shut down the origin of the leak at around 6 p.m. on Oct. 2.

    On the morning of Oct. 3, some 50 plant workers began collecting dead carp, goby and other fish that lived in the river in an area about 1.2 kilometers downstream from the vent from which the chemical was discharged.

    Seiichi Ando, a 65-year-old resident who reported the incident to the city government, told the Mainichi Shimbun, "I was shocked to find many fish struggling and floating on the river. I contacted (the city) thinking that since kids fish around here, it could be problematic if they ate the fish." A local woman added, "It's extremely unfortunate that a mishap at the plant disrupted the ecosystem here. I want them to make sure that this kind of incident never happens again."

    Toyo Tire Corp. released a comment apologizing for the incident and said, "We will promptly investigate the cause and carry out measures to prevent a recurrence."

    (Japanese original by Masaru Yoshida, Sendai Bureau)

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