Chatan town to buy returned U.S. military base land contaminated with dioxins from landowner

Chatan town to buy returned U.S. military base land contaminated with dioxins from landowner

The Chatan Town government has decided to purchase the plot of land from the landowner, due to waste containing high concentrations of dioxins being discovered on the returned U.S. base site.

March 2, 2020 Ryukyu Shimpo
By Manato Akira, Wakana Arakaki, and Mikako Shimoji

Waste containing high concentrations of dioxins was found at a returned U.S. military base site in Kamiseido, Chatan Town in Okinawa Prefecture, which had been designated for the construction of a residence.

As of March 1, the town government has decided to purchase this land from the landowner using town funds.

In the budget proposal for FY2020, about 54 million yen is being appropriated toward the purchase of the land.

The central government is showing no sign of providing compensation for this purchase by the town government.

One expert pointed out that: “Due to the lack of laws concerning returned U.S. military base sites, the disadvantage to landowners has long been veiled.

This is an issue that will occur hereafter in Okinawa”.

This land was a portion of Kadena Air Base returned to Okinawa in 1996, and Chatan Town carried out land readjustment on the land.

A portion of the Kamiseido land was supplied, as a substitute plot of land, to a townsperson who had been evicted from another area on which a park was built.

During construction of this residence in 2011 waste was found underground, and afterward, dioxins exceeding legal standards were detected.

From the outset, the landowner who found waste on the land requested that the town take action.

The landowner abandoned construction of the residence, and was forced to rent a place to stay.

Thereafter, since the land could not be used as expected and was taking a physical and mental toll on the landowner, the Chatan Town government decided to purchase the land. The use of the land once purchased has not yet been determined.

A contact person at the Chatan Town government said that this special measure will be taken, given that “It is harmful that the residence did not work out, and we determined that this is very urgent.

We will act in accordance with the intentions of the landowner”.

The contact person emphasized that if waste is similarly found in the soil on another landowner’s plot of land, to the disadvantage of the landowner, “We will request that the Defense Bureau handle the situation”.

In an interview with the Ryukyu Shimpo, an Okinawa Defense Bureau spokesperson responded to an inquiry, saying that “There is no plan to purchase the land”, and explained, “We are currently discussing how to handle the loss covered by the town”.

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)

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