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OSAKA — Nearly 70 local citizens gathered at a public hearing to voice concerns about environmental problems at the proposed site for Universal Studios Japan in southern Osaka.

Environmental officials from the city and prefectural governments heard presentations Wednesday evening from eight local citizens, including environmental activists and residents of the Konohana area of Osaka, where the USJ site is to be located. All of the speakers expressed concern over the threat of dioxin in the soil and groundwater. City officials admit that no detailed tests for dioxin have been done on the site, formerly used by Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd. and Hitachi Ltd.

Toshiko Sano, a local resident, called for an independent check for dioxin before construction begins. “Environmental tests have been done only by USJ, the city and Sumitomo Metal Industries, the owner of the site,” she said.

USJ estimates that at least 8 million people a year will visit the theme park, and Konohana residents expressed fear that the area would become congested with traffic. “So far, we’ve heard no detailed explanation from USJ or the city as to how they plan to ensure transportation safety. USJ and the city need to work with us on the transportation issue,” said Katsumi Okono, a businessman who lives in the area.

The hearing was carried out at the request of local citizens following the April release of a preliminary environmental report on the site. Preparation for construction, scheduled to start this fall, has already begun. The park is to open in April 2001.

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