• Kyodo

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The Environment Ministry began drilling Friday in a search for toxic substances around an arsenic-tainted well in a town where five other arsenic-tainted wells were found the previous day, all near the site of former wartime poison gas facilities.

The drilling around the well in Kamisu, Ibaraki Prefecture, had been scheduled for earlier but had been delayed by the discovery of more tainted wells.

The prefectural government announced Thursday that arsenic was detected in five other wells in Kamisu some 1 km away from the original well, whose water was found in March to contain 450 times more arsenic than the nationally acceptable level.

Some 20 people, including children, have shown symptoms of arsenic poisoning, and the national government last week announced a relief package to pay for their medical treatment. The arsenic is believed to come from the sites of poison gas facilities operated by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.

The ministry plans to drill 15 meters down in 25 spots in a 100-sq.-meter area around the well and conduct a magnetic survey and gas-detecting survey.

On May 28, the prefectural government found a high level of arsenic in a swimming pool at Onohara Elementary School whose water came from the same well.

The prefectural government also found chemical substances similar to those used in sneezing gas, a wartime weapon, in the well’s water.

The local government said it will check for possible links between the contaminated water and chemicals for poison gas abandoned in the area after World War II. The military had research and airport facilities in the area during the war.

The Environment Ministry began its investigation May 29, using radar devices and other means in an attempt to determine the source of the pollution.

Since March, the prefecture has checked 3,000 wells and found arsenic in 13. Twelve are in Kamisu. Thursday’s announcement brings the number of tainted wells to 18.

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