Hundreds of residents living near Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni filed a lawsuit Monday seeking compensation from Japan’s government for noise pollution from military air traffic.

The 476 plaintiffs are seeking damages worth about $5.4 million and a ban on some air traffic activities at the base, according to representatives of the group.

The plaintiffs also are demanding restrictions on engine tests and flight tactics over the city and hope to halt the planned relocation of an air wing to Iwakuni from Naval Air Facility Atsugi.

"It is not just noise but detonating noise," said Toshiaki Tsuda, leader of the plaintiffs group.

Flights and engine tests between 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. should be suspended, any flight noise over 60 decibels should be barred and sudden turns or elevation by military aircraft should be banned over the city, said Junko Otsuki, a member of the group.

It is unclear if the lawsuit could have any effect on the U.S. military. Similar lawsuits have been filed by Japanese residents at other U.S. bases in mainland Japan and Okinawa.

The air station said base operations were not affected by the lawsuit but declined to comment further. "This is strictly a matter between local Japanese citizens and their government," said base spokesman Maj. Guillermo Canedo. "It would be inappropriate for me to comment on local litigation."

The Japanese government is in the process of building a new runway at the air station that will move the angle of takeoffs and landings and reduce aircraft noise in the city, as well as increase safety, according to the air station.

The $2.4 billion project, which was started in 1997, is to be completed by March 2011.

The air wing could be moved to Iwakuni around 2014 depending how plans for a massive military realignment play out.

author picture
Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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