National / Politics

Koike says more scrutiny needed in Tsukiji market relocation

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

In an interview with The Japan Times, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike stressed the need to scrutinize the contamination problem at Toyosu, the relocation site for the famed Tsukiji fish market, following revelations that more toxins have been found there.

Cancer-causing benzene at 79 times the maximum concentration allowed was detected at the site in the final groundwater sampling conducted under a two-year monitoring survey, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government said last week.

“Given that high levels (of toxins) have been detected in the last two samplings, I think we should re-examine the site,” Koike said during the interview Monday at the metropolitan government building in Shinjuku Ward.

The amount was much higher than in seven tests conducted since November 2014, leaving doubt over the credibility of previous samplings.

“This is what I’d like to put under scrutiny,” Koike said.

On Monday, the metropolitan government said it would select about 30 of 201 existing monitoring points with the highest levels of toxins to carry out a further groundwater survey.

The land in Koto Ward was previously used by Tokyo Gas Co., but the metropolitan government ordered decontamination work and Koike’s predecessors Shintaro Ishihara and Yoichi Masuzoe claimed the problem had been resolved.

The relocation was initially scheduled for last Nov. 7, but upon assuming office Koike postponed the move. In November she announced she would decide this summer whether to proceed with the plan.

Results of the final groundwater monitoring survey are deemed crucial for assessing the site’s safety by an expert panel appointed by Koike.

She had said the relocation will likely take place sometime between next winter and spring at the earliest, but the recent revelations may change that.

In the interview, Koike did not clarify how the ongoing situation will impact her decision but expressed concern that further delays could increase the total cost of the relocation and will be damaging for wholesalers.

“It’s because (the previous administration) was pushing the project forward without checking whether the site is safe,” she said.

Koike believes the problems surrounding the long-troubled move will be a key issue in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election this summer.

The governor said she is in the process of selecting candidates from her political school, Kibo no Juku (School of Hope), to field in the July campaign.

More than 1,000 participants took examinations earlier this month hoping to run.

“I’d like to help those win who will put priority on the interest of individual citizens” and will be capable of scrutinizing earlier decisions of previous administrations, including selection of the Toyosu site, she said.

Koike said that among the students are former corporate workers, women hoping to change the corporate environment for working mothers, and those with experience in the world of politics.

“I was surprised to see 6,000 people willing to join (the school) … it’s proof people are tired of previous administrations and many young people are willing to make a difference,” she added.

Since her gubernatorial campaign, the 64-year-old Koike has pledged to bring major reforms to the Tokyo government, including activities in the metropolitan assembly that led to past financial scandals.

“I need members who will help me push forward those reforms,” she said. “Candidates without any political links or affiliations would be the most suitable.”

Koike, who aims to control a majority bloc in the assembly, said she is planning to work closely with the group of assembly members who backed her campaign.

“I also hope to cooperate with members of other groups and parties, regardless of whether they are new members or experienced lawmakers,” she said.

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