Okinawans could see water rates rise as local government burdened with massive cost of decontaminating polluted water from rivers near U.S. bases

 

September 1, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

By Chie Tome

 

After a high concentration of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) was discovered at the Chatan Water Treatment Plant in Okinawa Prefecture, which takes in water from rivers near U.S. military bases, the prefectural government’s Enterprise Bureau spent 170 million yen in fiscal 2016 on decontamination measures.

It has now been revealed that the Enterprise Bureau expects it might raise water rates if the problem continues.

 

The Enterprise Bureau conveyed its concerns to the U.S. military that the cost of decontamination could be a major factor leading to an increase in water rates.

This was revealed in the minutes of a three-party conference among the Okinawa prefectural government, the Okinawa Defense Bureau, and the U.S. military.

The document was obtained by Masami Kawamura of the Informed-Public Project (IPP) via a disclosure request on August 31.

 

The prefectural government is requesting compensation from the Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB) for the decontamination costs, but the ODB has refused to comply, asserting that no causal relationship has been established between the U.S. military bases and the PFOS contamination.

The high cost of decontamination incurred by the prefectural government can be viewed as a form of secondary damage caused by the bases.

 

In fiscal 2016, the Enterprise Bureau spent 170 million yen to replace granular activated carbon, which is effective at removing PFOS from water.

According to prefectural government documents, it has been decided that the granular activated carbon will be replaced yearly at least until 2023, meaning the Enterprise Bureau will incur massive costs to perform decontamination.

 

Since the PFOS detection was made public in January of last year, the prefectural government held three-party talks with the ODB and the U.S. military on two occasions to exchange information on the PFOS issue.

The three parties shared information about PFOS concentration measurements and the prefectural government’s response to the issue.

At the meeting in February of this year, the Enterprise Bureau explained the situation of the decontamination costs and also conveyed the possibility of raising water rates.

 

A representative of the Enterprise Bureau explained, “The change will not be immediate, but if we continue to incur such costs, we will have no choice but to increase water rates.

” The representative repeated the prefectural government’s frequent assertion of its need to enter into U.S. bases to survey the situation and also called on the ODB to compensate the prefectural government for the decontamination costs.

 

According to a representative of Ginowan City, where all homes receive their water supply from the Chatan Water Treatment Plant, the city has not been contacted by the Enterprise Bureau regarding an increase in water rates.

The representative stated, “Residents are unlikely to be pleased if they see their water rates go up because of pollution originating from the bases.”

 

(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

 

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