NAHA, Okinawa Pref. – A group of people living near the U.S. military’s Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, said Tuesday they intend to file a lawsuit demanding that helicopter landing practice be stopped at the facility due to excessive noise.
The group plans to file the suit with the Naha District Court as early as October, people close to the group said. It would be the first noise pollution suit filed against the facility, they added.
The group, composed of local residents and their supporters, said it would ask the court to issue an order for the Japanese and U.S. governments to put an end to helicopter flight practice over residential areas as well as takeoffs and landings early in the morning and late at night. It would also demand compensation for noise pollution.
In the coming weeks, the group will hold meetings with people who live in areas subject to a Weighted Equivalent Continuous Noise Level of 75 or more due to activities at the air base. It hopes that about 100 to 200 people will join the suit as plaintiffs.
About half of Ginowan’s population of roughly 84,000 live in such areas.
Residents critical of the current noise levels maintain their ability to sleep, converse and watch TV has been affected. Classes at elementary and junior high schools are often disrupted due by the noise, they claim.
Both Tokyo and Washington have agreed to Futenma’s return after its heliport functions are transferred to a new offshore military-civilian airport to be built in the northern part of the main island of Okinawa. Talks have not seen much progress, however, due to the prefecture’s demand that a 15-year limit be placed on the military’s use of the planned facility.
Zenji Shimada, a pastor representing the plaintiffs in the proposed lawsuit, said nothing has changed regarding the U.S. military facilities in Okinawa Prefecture in the 30 years since the prefecture was returned to Japan.
“There is no telling when the return of Futenma will actually materialize, and we cannot stand (the noise) anymore,” he said.
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