OSAKA — A mediation plan unveiled Friday aimed at settling a dioxin contamination problem that occurred near an incinerator in Nose, Osaka Prefecture, would have the incinerator’s maker and the plant operator pay a total of 750 million yen to local governments.
Osaka Prefecture’s pollution examination committee unveiled the plan, which calls for Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding Co. and its subsidiary that operated the plant to pay the sum.
If the plan is accepted by all parties concerned and formally signed July 14, it will be the first case of dioxin pollution in which the builder of the responsible plant assumes a financial responsibility for the contamination. It will also put an end to the 26-month old dispute.
According to Friday’s plan, 500 million yen of the compensation will cover the cost of scrapping the Toyono Clean Center — which is currently not in operation — and removing the contaminated soil in and around the facility. Under the proposal, the contaminated soil and other polluted materials would be disposed of by December 2006.
The plan also proposes that environmental testing and health checks for local residents be carried out for 20 years. The cost would be covered by 20 million yen to be paid by Mitsui Engineering.
The rest of the compensation money would be used to provide safe drinking water to residents with no water supply system and to improve the quality of farm soil damaged by the contamination.
Kohei Oda, a lawyer for the residents, said that although the mediation plan does not call for compensating residents individually, it is revolutionary as the plant maker has been called upon to compensate for the pollution it caused. Therefore, there is no reason for residents to refuse it, he explained.
Nose resident Nobuko Matsuo, representative of a group of 1,155 residents of Nose and the neighboring Toyono district that filed for committee mediation in September 1998, greeted the plan while saying that she is not completely satisfied with the fact Mitsui Engineering would bear only part of the cost. The residents had been demanding that Mitsui Engineering pay some 2 billion yen in total, including compensation to individual residents.
The residents will hold a meeting July 2 to decide whether to accept the plan.
Meanwhile, lawyers for Mitsui Engineering said the plant maker will examine the plan with an open mind while considering its social responsibility. They added, however, that the Nose plant itself was not faulty.
The incinerator was shut down in June 1997 after high dioxin levels were first detected in its gas emissions. It had been operating for 10 years.
In April 1998, a study found that the soil surrounding the incinerator contained as much as 8,500 picograms of dioxin per gram of soil and that the bed of a pond near the facility registered 23,000 picograms of dioxin per gram.
Some experts say the acceptable concentration of dioxin in a gram of soil is less than 100 picograms. A picogram is one-trillionth of a gram.
The building was sealed off in September 1998 after a Health and Welfare Ministry committee reported that cooling water at the incinerator registered 130,000 nanograms of dioxin per liter of water and that soil below the cooling system registered 52,000 nanograms per gram of soil, the highest concentration of dioxin in soil registered in Japan. A nanogram is one-billionth of a gram.
Demolition of the plant was completed in March, followed by the removal of some 4,000 sq. meters of contaminated soil in April. However, the timing and location of disposal of polluted materials has yet to be decided because local residents are opposed to building a processing plant.