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Staff writer

OSAKA — City officials here announced Sept. 10 that an environmental survey for the proposed site of Universal Studios Japan shows excessive levels of lead, chrome, arsenic and selenium.

The theme park, due to open in 2001 on reclaimed land in Osaka Bay, now faces an uncertain future.

A special committee consisting of environmental experts has been formed and will meet next week to begin discussions on how best to clean up the site. Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd., the site’s current owner and a partner in the Universal Studios project, had previously said it would bear the cleanup costs.

Osaka officials said they do not know how long the committee would continue meeting before issuing its final recommendation. Since it was revealed in July that Sumitomo had buried nearly 700,000 tons of industrial waste on the 7.2-hectare site, the city has been overseeing environmental tests carried out by the company.

Boring tests were conducted at 18 different locations on the site. Four samples were declared invalid and 176 samples were finally submitted for analysis.

The analysis contained results from five different locations. Nearly twice the amount of permissible lead levels was found in one location and 3 1/2 times the permissible amount of arsenic was detected at a second. Nearly 14 times the permissible amount of arsenic was found at a third site.

In addition, more than 12 times the permissible amount of chrome was discovered at a fourth test site, while 15 times the permissible amount of selenium was found at a fifth. The samples containing arsenic and chrome were taken on the border of the Sumitomo-owned site only 5 meters from the surface.

“In order to determine how best to proceed from here, we will form a consultation committee of outside experts, who will independently review the data and make recommendations on how to proceed,” said Iwao Okayama, a city environmental official. The committee will consist of four academics who will meet for the first time next Sept. 14.

Universal Studios Japan officials said that, while the results were bad, construction plans would not be altered. “It’s my understanding that the purpose of the committee is to find the best way to ensure that cleanup operations are finished so that construction may begin next autumn,” said Toshio Takahashi, an official for Universal Studios Japan.

However, the test results only covered land owned by Sumitomo. The total Universal Studios site is some 54 hectares. Takahashi and city officials said that the committee would discuss whether to recommend that the rest of the site undergo similar testing.

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