Stench from Kadena Air Base leads Kadena Town to seek designation as an odor regulation area

January 7, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo
By Takahiro Miyagi

Recently, residents living around Kadena Air Base raised the concern of a bad stench to the prefectural government. On January 6 in response to this concern, the prefectural government decided to pursue a plan to designate the town of Kadena as an odor regulation area based on Offensive Odor Control Law. The prefectural government will inquire about designation to a prefectural advisory panel on the environment that opens toward the end of this month. If the government receives a response by the end of the fiscal year in March, Kadena could be designated as an odor regulation area in April. In that case, when a foul odor occurs, a government-authorized odor analyst will come to the town of Kadena to measure the odor level.

The stench wafting from Kadena Base is speculated to be that of exhaust and gas from U.S. military aircraft, but these suspicions are not yet confirmed.

Since domestic Japanese laws do not apply within US base compounds, the U.S. military is not subject to recommendations or orders from the Japanese government to improve the situation. At the same time, Okinawans hope to use measured results from odor analysis as indicators when appealing to the relevant authorities for improvements.
Offensive Odor Control Law generally applies to odors expelled from factories or plants rather than military facilities. Regulation of odors is based on an odor index, and the odor index of a stench in an area is measured by human sense of smell. This method of measurement ensures detection of odors that may not be numerically measureable by a machine. A revision of the 1996 Offensive Odor Control Law was implemented in Okinawa in 2006, stipulating the human nose as the tool of determining odor level. Now, 15 municipalities are designated for odor regulation under Offensive Odor Control Law, including Okinawa City, Ginowan City, and Naha City.

Once the advisory panel on the environment gives its advice and a municipality is designated as an odor regulation area, the municipal government is in charge of measuring odor levels and ensuring that the instigator of any stench, whether it is a factory or construction site, improves the situation.

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)

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