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Japan to collect US military's toxic water in Okinawa, cover disposal costs

U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, is seen from a Mainichi Shimbun aircraft on Jan. 27, 2018. (Mainichi/Takeshi Noda)

Japan will collect all untreated contaminated water produced at a U.S. military base in Okinawa Prefecture and shoulder the disposal costs, Japanese Defense Ministry and other authorities announced on Sept. 17.

    The move comes on the heels of the uproar caused when personnel at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, dumped water containing toxic substances directly into the public sewer system, after reducing the chemicals' concentration.

    The air station stores wastewater containing purportedly carcinogenic perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) in on-base underground tanks. The Marines dumped some 64,000 liters of the contaminated water into the local sewer system on Aug. 26, even as the Japanese and U.S. governments were in talks over disposal methods and despite a demand to desist from Okinawa Prefecture. The act prompted protests from the Japanese and Okinawa governments, and other bodies.

    The wastewater was generated by firefighting drills using foam containing PFOS and other toxic compounds. According to the U.S. military, about 360,000 liters of the contaminated water remain. Japan will shoulder the disposal by incineration costs of about 92 million yen, or roughly $836,000.

    The U.S. military had expressed concern that the storage tanks could overflow due to heavy rain brought by typhoons, and the Ministry of Defense stated that the transfer of the water is "an emergency interim measure due to the typhoon problem."

    (Japanese original by Takayasu Endo, Naha Bureau, and Yoshitake Matsuura, Tokyo City News Department)

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