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OSAKA — To ensure that the construction of Universal Studios Japan begins in 1998 as scheduled, Osaka city is likely to allow the nearly 700,000 tons of industrial waste to remain buried on the site.

The municipal government, however, is likely to order that the area be sealed off. “Although discussions between the city and academic experts have yet to take place, I think it would be very difficult, at this point, to remove all the waste and transport it somewhere else because there is nowhere else to dispose of it,” said Iwao Okayama, an official in the city’s environmental bureau.

The waste in question was buried on a 7.2-hectare site owned by Sumitomo Metal Industries between 1965 and 1989, when the site was closed. However, against the city’s orders, Sumitomo allegedly continued dumping industrial waste on the site until the mid-1990s.

Since then, environmental testing by the city has revealed traces of PCBs and other harmful substances. On Sept. 10, the environmental bureau announced that tests conducted this summer showed that five areas of the Sumitomo site, which makes up only about one-seventh of the total USJ site, showed lead, arsenic, chromium, copper and selenium higher than permissible levels.

When asked whether similar tests would be conducted on the remaining portion of the USJ site, which once housed factories owned by Sumitomo and Hitachi, among others, Okayama said he was not sure. “This is a problem to be discussed,” he said.

In the meantime, additional tests on the remaining portion of the Sumitomo site are to be discussed by a special committee of four university professors who are experts in waste disposal. Samples of underground water are also being drawn for analysis.

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