ATSUGI RESIDENTS WIN LANDMARK CASE

Government to pay 2.75 billion yen over base noise

Kyodo

In a landmark noise-pollution case, the Yokohama District Court ordered the government Wednesday to pay about 2.75 billion yen in compensation to 4,935 residents around the Atsugi military base in Kanagawa Prefecture.

Referring to the Weighted Equivalent Continuous Perceived Noise Level, an international environmental index used to gauge airplane noise, presiding Judge Tamio Okamitsu said residents in an area where noise levels exceed 75 WECPNL “suffer (noise levels) beyond the tolerable limit.”

The noise index was not recognized in a previous noise-pollution lawsuit.

Okamitsu said soundproofing measures carried out by the government have not solved the problem. He also dismissed the government’s claim that the compensation figure should be reduced because residents chose to live around the base knowing there could be noise problems.

The ruling marks a record-high compensation award related to noise from a military base.

The compensation figure was reduced, however, due to other reasons, such as the plaintiffs’ failure to submit relevant documents.

This was the third noise-related lawsuit involving the base, which is used by both the U.S. Navy and the Maritime Self-Defense Force.

Two prior suits, one of which was filed in September 1976 by 92 plaintiffs and the other in October 1984 by 161 plaintiffs, sought compensation over past and future noise pollution, along with a ban on night landing practice at the base. In both cases, the court only awarded compensation over past suffering due to noise pollution.

In the latest case, the court turned down a request by 4,858 plaintiffs living around the base for compensation over future noise pollution.

The ruling follows the outcome of similar suits over U.S. bases in Yokota, Tokyo, and Kadena, Okinawa Prefecture, and a Japanese base in Ishikawa Prefecture.