Asahi Shimbun has published a second article on the illegal decontamination practices going on in Fukushima. The follow up focuses on the government response to what has been a large volume of complaints about these illegal and shoddy decontamination processes.
A local office for the Environment Ministry was established in Fukushima. This office received a “continuous stream” of complaint calls about decontamination work not being done properly. The Fukushima office did not relay information about the complaints to the Tokyo office. The local office also did not keep records of the complaints. The office claims they contacted the contractor after a complaint was made reminding them of the decontamination rules. No follow up or system to deal with repeat or high volume offenders was made. Asahi Shimbun received this explanation:
“In response to questions from Asahi, an official at the Fukushima local office said, “Whenever we received a complaint, we cautioned those doing the work to follow what was written in the contracts.””
As for the Tokyo head office one official said they were not even aware of the volume of complaints coming in. The Environment ministry stated that they are not set up to handle large public works projects and apparently did nothing to prepare themselves for the wider array of tasks involved with such a massive project.
The government has hung many hopes on decontamination. They have depended on the program to return people to certain areas rather than compensate them so they could permanently move. Decontamination was depended upon to work in order to fund economic development and move industry back to the region. Now not only has much of the work been futile, it may have played a role in worsening contamination of rivers, streams and aquatic life. No detailed survey has been done on these dumping locations or where contaminated cleaning water was allowed to run. These illegal practices have the potential to create new hot spots by concentrating contamination in low spots or areas where water runs.
Asahi Shimbun also interviewed some of the decontamination workers. These workers showed them the evidence of the illegal practices in Nahara and Tamura. One went so far as to record a conversation with a supervisor over the illegal dumping. In yet another article Asahi Shimbun documented numerous incidents where water was being allowed to run off where power sprayers were used. One gutter near a parking lot went from .8 uSv to 2.9 uSv after workers used a power sprayer to remove contamination and let the water run off. In a series of locations they set up cameras and caught many instances of this illegal work and dumping into the river.
In response to the Asahi Shimbun articles the Environment Ministry has begun an investigation. Reporters did talk to more workers at a January 6th meeting of Hibakurodo-wo Kangaeru Network (network to think of work under radiation exposure), that is made up of labor unions, lawyers and others. Workers mentioned that supervisors told them to use the illegal practices on days Environment Ministry officials were not around. When officials were to visit proper procedures were used. These illegal actions were clearly not a misunderstanding in at least some of the cases. Workers also mentioned they are getting no hazard pay for this radiation related work.
So far nothing has been said about possibly punishing the construction companies in any way.
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