Japan testing drums dug up on Camp Foster for toxins

Marines, sailors and guests are presented scissors for a ribbon-cutting ceremony April 30, 2013, at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa on Camp Foster. The hospital had been located on Camp Lester since 1958.


By TRAVIS J. TRITTEN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 14, 2014

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Japan Ministry of Defense said Friday that it is testing for toxic materials among some barrels and pipes recently unearthed by crews working on Camp Foster on Okinawa.

About 12 objects — what is thought to be a mix of culvert pipes, a wheel assembly and a drum — were discovered during a Japanese cultural assets survey at a construction site for facilities related to the new U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa.

In February, officials with the local MOD bureau and Ginowan City visited the construction site and found no odor or discoloration in the surrounding soil, according to a ministry spokesman. However, the ministry said it will “promptly” test the material, and any detected pollution will be removed from the site.

The Marine Corps said Friday that it tested air around the sight and found no dangerous levels of pollution. It is assisting the Japanese with the testing effort.

It appears the single drum found at the site was cut in half and possibly used to burn trash, the III Marine Expeditionary Force said in a press release.

Barrels recovered around military bases are not uncommon on Okinawa and have lately stirred controversy. The Air Force commissioned soil testing at Kadena Air Base schools in February after 83 buried barrels — some tainted with dioxin and herbicide — were found just off base, but no dangerous pollution was detected.

In 2002, the city of Chatan near Camp Foster and Kadena unearthed 215 barrels of tar oil from former military land.

Twitter: @Travis_Tritten

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