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OSAKA — Three people living near the construction site of the Universal Studios Japan theme park in Konohana Ward here filed a petition Wednesday with the Osaka District Court, seeking a court order against USJ Co. and Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd. to suspend the ongoing project.

The residents said the soil at the site is contaminated with toxic waste, such as lead, arsenic and total mercury, that would pose hazards if construction continues.

Sumitomo Metal is the landowner of part of the site and the forth-largest shareholder of USJ.

“We have been asking USJ to explain to us about the environmental condition of the site, but our request has been neglected so far,” said Shinichi Nakagawa, one of the three residents, who lives about 1.2 km from the site.

The residents are not against the construction of the theme park, but are concerned that several hundred thousand tons of toxic waste would be covered and remain underground once the work is completed, he said.

USJ official Tsukasa Fujimoto issued a comment claiming the site was properly processed by the landowners and the company believes its safety is adequately assured.

Sumitomo Metal followed with a similar comment.

According to the petition, Sumitomo Metal dumped about 700,000 tons of industrial waste, including toxic substances, at the site between 1965 and 1996.

That revelation, made by former employees of a waste disposal company that worked at the site, prompted environmental tests in 1997.

The workers submitted written affidavits that they oversaw the burial of untreated industrial waste at the site.

Tests turned up five kinds of toxic substances that exceeded environmental limits.

Some 15,000 tons of contaminated soil were removed last August, and other necessary measures recommended by Osaka City Hall were taken.

But Nakagawa said such measures are not enough because the tests intentionally avoided particular spots where much higher levels of toxic contamination could be detected.

Construction of the theme park began in October. It is expected to open in 2001.

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