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US military submits soil after Japan gov't inspection over anti-fire foam leak

U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the Okinawa Prefecture city of Ginowan is seen from a Mainichi Shimbun aircraft on June 12, 2019. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Following up on an incident that occurred April 10 in which fire-extinguishing foam leaked from U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma into the city of Ginowan in Japan's southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, officials from the Japanese, Okinawa prefectural, and Ginowan municipal governments conducted an on-site investigation on Futenma base May 11, and received contaminated soil from the U.S. military.

In a total of five on-site inspections under the Agreement between Japan and the United States of America on Cooperation in the Field of Environmental Stewardship Relating to the United States Armed Forces in Japan, the collection of water and soil samples that the prefectural government and other bodies had sought were completed. Going forward, both Japan and the U.S. will analyze the chemicals that are contained in the soil and other substances.

"What we have done is of great significance," Defense Minister Taro Kono told a May 12 press conference. "Local understanding is essential if we are to have the U.S. military stay in Japan under stable conditions."

On April 10, about 227,100 liters of fire-extinguishing foam that contains PFOS, a chemical agent suspected to be carcinogenic, leaked. Of that, some 143,830 liters leaked out of the base. Japanese officials carried out on-site inspections on April 16, 21, 24 and May 1 and 11.

It marked the first time Japan had conducted on-site investigations on a U.S. military base for an incident affecting the environment based on the environmental stewardship agreement since it was concluded in 2015. In a similar incident in December 2019, when fire-extinguishing foam leaked from the base, the Okinawa Prefectural Government sought to carry out an on-site inspection, but the Japanese government did not seek permission from the U.S. saying that the foam did not leak out of the base.

(Japanese original by Yusuke Tanabe, Political News Department)

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