New pollution find puts market relocation on ice

Tsukiji to stay put for another year

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji fish market isn’t going anywhere for another year because more contaminated soil has been found at its new site in the Toyosu district, a Tokyo Metropolitan Government official said Friday.

The metro government initially planned to move the market to Koto Ward and reopen it by March 2015, but it looks like more cleanup work will be needed, said Yuki Ono, who is in charge of the new Toyosu market plan.

“We dug down to a certain depth to check for contamination before the cleanup work started, but it was decided to check for contamination deeper down in the soil during the cleanup,” said Ono. “And that’s what we’ve found.”

The relocation of Tsukiji has been a contentious issue because the new site has toxic soil that contains high levels of lead, arsenic, hexavalent chromium, cyanogen and benzene, according to a 2001 disclosure by Tokyo Gas Co., which had a factory there.

Tokyo set a deadline of March to finish the cleanup, which involves digging up 2 meters of topsoil and replacing it with fresh soil, building bulkheads, pumping up tainted groundwater and injecting fresh water.

Ono said it is still unclear when the cleanup work will end.

The metro government has been taking countermeasures against the pollution based on ideas proposed by various advisory panels. Some of them said decontamination would have to be conducted on an unprecedented scale to succeed.

Tokyo has budgeted ¥58.6 billion to cleanse the site, but the extra work is likely to increase costs. Ono, however, declined comment on how much more money will be needed and said the metro government is still in the process of drafting the fiscal 2013 budget, which must be approved by the metro assembly.

Tokyo decided to move Tsukiji from Chuo Ward to the wider Toyosu area because it is too crowded and too old. The new site is 2.3 km south of the 23-hectare Tsukiji site.

Some people, including mid-tier traders at Tsukiji, fiercely oppose the relocation because they are afraid the toxins at the site will taint their fish.