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Local governments found pollution levels exceeded national soil pollution standards at 39 of 44 sites surveyed in 1997, according to an annual survey released Friday by the Environment Agency.

The results of the survey, a questionnaire covering fiscal 1997 and answered by all 47 prefectures and 80 cities designated under the Water Pollution Control Law, indicate that 39 sites surveyed contained pollutants exceeding acceptable limits.

The most common pollutants found were arsenic, lead and tetrachloroethylene used in manufacturing processes, metal making and industrial detergents. Many of the cases are the result of leaks caused by inappropriate handling of materials, agency officials said.

Twenty-two of the 39 sites were in the Kanto region, officials said, attributing the high number of cases to the region’s comparatively strict soil pollution laws and guidelines. Soil pollution surveys have been carried out since 1975, but soil pollution standards were only established in 1991.

Since then, 171 of the sites surveyed have not met the environmental soil standards established to protect water quality. Of these 171 sites, remedial action, including cleanup and containment of the pollution, has been completed at 94 sites, is under way at 31 others and being considered at the remaining 46.

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