TSU, Mie Pref. – Four employees of chemical maker Ishihara Sangyo Kaisha Ltd. and its subsidiaries were arrested Monday for allegedly arranging for the disposal of thousands of tons of toxic industrial waste disguised as a commercially safe land-fill product, police said.
The suspects allegedly arranged for the dumping of about 100,000 tons of Feroshilt, a landfill and soil-reinforcement material made from sulfuric acid waste, into reclaimed land in Kameyama, Mie Prefecture, over 12 months starting in January 2002, despite knowing it was an industrial waste product that contained such toxins as hexavalent chromium and fluorine.
Those arrested for alleged violation of the waste management law include Takeshi Sato, 69, a former member of Ishihara Sangyo’s board of directors and a former deputy head of the company’s Yokkaichi plant in Mie Prefecture.
Earlier in the day, a joint investigative team from the Mie, Aichi, Gifu and Kyoto prefectural police forces raided the Yokkaichi plant, the source of Ishihara Sangyo’s Feroshilt.
The Mie Prefectural Government initially certified Feroshilt as a recycled product but revoked the certification in June.
Investigators determined the product is toxic and suspect Ishihara Sangyo illegally disposed of its waste by repackaging and selling it as a commercial product, police sources said, further alleging that the firm effectively paid developers to take the Feroshilt away.
Sources said 720,000 tons of Feroshilt were dumped into plots of land to be used in development projects in Gifu, Aichi, Mie and Kyoto prefectures between August 2001 and April 2005. Toxic substances in excess of legal limits have been detected in some 30 locations where the product was used.
Ishihara Sangyo is an Osaka-based chemical company with about 1,000 employees. It is the country’s largest maker of titanic oxides, which are used to make white pigments. The company’s shares are listed on the first sections of the Tokyo and Osaka bourses.
Ishihara Sangyo sold Feroshilt for 150 yen per ton to land developers, calling it an “epoch-making” recycled product for use in land reclamation sites.
But Ishihara Sangyo paid 3,000 yen per ton to the developers to transport the material, raising questions as to whether Ishihara Sangyo had effectively had the developers dispose of what they knew to be a hazardous waste product.
Sato, who was responsible for developing Feroshilt, has told investigators he believed the substance was is in reality toxic industrial waste, the sources said.
By selling the waste as a landfill product, Ishihara Sangyo was able to save tens of billions yen in disposal costs, the sources said.
Under the waste management law, those who illegally dump hazardous materials can face up to five years in prison and a fine up to 10 million yen.
Police said they are preparing charges against the company itself and will file an investigative report with prosecutors soon.
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