Scene of 'shoddy decontamination efforts' in Tamura, Fukushima Prefecture. A supervisor kicks contaminated leaves in a river. Tamiyuki Kihara / The Asahi Shimbun

4 January 2013 (The Asahi Shimbun) – Cleanup crews in Fukushima Prefecture have dumped soil and leaves contaminated with radioactive fallout into rivers. Water sprayed on contaminated buildings has been allowed to drain back into the environment. And supervisors have instructed workers to ignore rules on proper collection and disposal of the radioactive waste.

Decontamination is considered a crucial process in enabling thousands of evacuees to return to their homes around the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and resume their normal lives.

But the decontamination work witnessed by a team of Asahi Shimbun reporters shows that contractual rules with the Environment Ministry have been regularly and blatantly ignored, and in some cases, could violate environmental laws.

"If the reports are true, it would be extremely regrettable," Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato said at his first news conference of the year on 4 January 2013. "I hope everyone involved will clearly understand how important decontamination is to the people of Fukushima."

He called on the Environment Ministry to investigate and present a clear report to the prefectural government.

The shoddy practices may also raise questions about the decontamination program itself--and the huge amounts of money pumped into the program. […]

From Dec. 11 to 18, four Asahi reporters spent 130 hours observing work at various locations in Fukushima Prefecture.

At 13 locations in Naraha, Iitate, and Tamura, workers were seen simply dumping collected soil and leaves as well as water used for cleaning rather than securing them for proper disposal.

Photographs were taken at 11 of those locations.

The reporters also talked to about 20 workers who said they were following the instructions of employees of the contracted companies or their subcontractors in dumping the materials. A common response of the workers was that the decontamination work could never be completed if they adhered to the strict rules.

Asahi reporters obtained a recording of a supervisor at a site in Naraha instructing a worker to dump cut grass over the side of the road. […]

Officials of Maeda and Dai Nippon Construction have not responded to questions from The Asahi Shimbun.

Four workers at a site in Tamura said they were told to dispose of leaves and soil in a river. At another site in Tamura, reporters saw the leader of the subcontractor group kick a pile of leaves into the river. [more]

Crooked Cleanup: Radioactive waste dumped into rivers during decontamination work in Fukushima

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