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20 toxic substances detected in groundwater around US military bases in Okinawa

An Okinawa Prefectural Government official explains about toxic substances detected in the groundwater around U.S. military bases, at the prefectural government building in Naha on July 12, 2022. (Mainichi/Hiroshi Higa)

NAHA -- Twenty toxic chemicals that are illegal to use, manufacture or import under Japanese law have been detected in the groundwater around multiple U.S. military bases in Okinawa Prefecture, the prefectural government announced on July 12.

    The prefecture said that between fiscal 2019 and 2021, it had tested the groundwater at 10 to 15 locations around multiple bases in the central and southern parts of Okinawa's main island that Washington has agreed to return to Japan, including Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the city of Ginowan.

    Authorities tested for toxic substances that had been detected at former military base sites in the United States, and they found 20 chemical compounds such as suspected carcinogens perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). In addition, substances that came from ammunition were also detected. The groundwater is apparently not used for human consumption.

    The hazardous substances included one that is now banned but had been used in and out of military bases for purposes such as exterminating termites.

    A prefectural government official said, "We need to investigate whether or not those substances came from U.S. military bases."

    (Japanese original by Hiroshi Higa, Naha Bureau)

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