Soil contaminated with harmful substance at U.S. helicopter crash site

February 19, 2014 Ryukyu Shimpo

On February 18, the U.S. military announced the result of testing of soil at the site where an HH-60 rescue helicopter belonging to U.S. Air Force Kadena Air Base crashed in Camp Hansen in Ginoza last August. The lead level in one sample was 0.744 milligrams per liter, 74 times higher than the reference standard of the Japan Ministry of Environment Soil Contamination Countermeasures Law. The arsenic level in one sample was 0.215 milligrams per liter, 21 times higher than the reference standard. It is possible that these substances are residual materials from the aircraft. The Okinawa Prefectural Government and the Ginoza Village Office will investigate the site on and after February 19, when the U.S. military removes the polluted soils. A Ginoza official complained because six months have passed since the accident occurred. “Even if we are given access to the site after removal of the soil we do not know exactly where the helicopter crashed.”

All surface-water samples collected from the Okawa Drinking Water Reservoir and a nearby stream, which are about 70 meters distance from the crash site, were within Japan Environmental Governing Standards limits. The U.S. government concluded that water in the reservoir was safe. The U.S. Air Force collected soil at the crash site between October and December last year and analyzed it using the United States Environmental Protection Agency standard protocols.

Soil removed from the site will be disposed of in accordance with the Japan Environmental Governing Standards, the U.S. military said. The Okinawa Defense Bureau explained to the Ginoza Village officials that the polluted soil would be taken to the United States. The U.S. military will reinvestigate the site and then carry out an aerial hydro seeding to prevent soil erosion. If the Okinawa Prefectural Government requests access to the site, the U.S. military authorities will grant it after removing the polluted soil. The prefectural government had requested to be allowed to investigate the site, but the U.S. military did not grant permission. Prefectural government officials want to carry out the investigation as soon as possible to address concerns of the residents of Ginoza who are under water supply restrictions. Ginoza officials entered the crash site for the first time last December but the military did not allow them to carry out the investigation. They were permitted only to take photographs of the scene. The prefectural government and the village office carried out investigations in the area around the base. They have not detected abnormal values from the samples.

On its website, the Okinawa Defense Bureau has published the results of the assessment prepared by Joe Vogel, Environmental Affairs Branch Head, Marine Corps Installation Pacific.

(English translation by T&CT)

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