National / Crime & Legal

Thousands of residents near Atsugi air base plan to sue Japan again over noise pollution

Kyodo

Around 6,000 people will sue the government next month to demand a halt to nighttime and early morning flights at Atsugi air base near Tokyo and seek compensation for noise pollution, their lawyer said Saturday.

The would-be plaintiffs in the suit, to be filed at the Yokohama District Court on Aug. 4, are mostly people who live nearby. They might be joined by 2,000 to 3,000 others in the fall or later, which would bring the total number of plaintiffs in the case to around 10,000, the lawyer said.

“Our lives are disrupted and are even put at risk whenever we are hit with booming noise (from aircraft) overhead. We will never accept the reality of the Atsugi base-related flights,” Shuji Onami, the would-be plaintiffs’ leader, said at a meeting in Yamato, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Saturday.

Naval Air Faciity Atsugi is a joint facility used by the U.S. military and the Maritime Self-Defense Force. It is hosted by the cities of Yamato and Ayase.

Those suing the government will demand ¥40,000 a month in compensation for the noise pollution caused by flights to and from the base over the past three years and until such flights are halted, the lawyer said. They will also demand that Japanese and U.S. officials hold consultations on how to bring end noise to an end.

Several lawsuits have been filed over nighttime and early morning flights at the Atsugi base. In a ruling on a case involving about 7,000 plaintiffs last December, the Supreme Court upheld compensation for past aircraft noise but overturned an earlier ruling that had ordered a halt to MSDF flights and government compensation for future disturbances.

The Atsugi base is home to the U.S. Navy’s carrier-based aircraft, among others. But the carrier wing is slated to be transferred to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture by May.