SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Two Sasebo City Council members said this week that they’re continuing their push to investigate whether crude oil could be polluting some Sasebo Naval Base soil by asking the base for permission to examine sand at the Akasaki Fuel Terminal, which is part of the base.

But no such request has been received, a base spokesman said Wednesday — and Sasebo city’s environmental officer said the government already inspected the sand and determined in December it was not polluted.

Council member Junko Hashimoto, an independent, told Stars and Stripes on Wednesday that she and Council member Chiaki Yamashita, of the communist party, asked for permission around Jan. 21 to enter the fuel terminal just to view the soil. They lacked the expertise to do tests, Hashimoto said.

However, the base “has not received an access request to visit Akasaki Fuel Terminal from Sasebo City, or from the assembly members,” said base spokesman Charles T. Howard. Any such requests, he said, “are handled on a case-by-case basis.

“The U.S. Navy is keenly interested in protecting the natural environment on land, at sea and in the air,” the base spokesman said.

The councilwomen claim a large pile of sand was polluted with crude oil during a fuel tank construction project at Akasaki in the mid 1990s, and was left on base.

Hashimoto said a construction worker told her he saw the oil spill, that oil was all over the ground. The councilwoman said she is concerned about ocean pollution if the sand is reused in building projects connected to a long-term plan for Juliet Basin.

Hashimoto said she wants to view the sand to help guarantee the relationship between the base and the residents is equitable.

But Yoshiyuki Furukawa, Sasebo city’s environmental protection officer, said Wednesday that “the Defense Facilities Administration Bureau said in December that the sand which is to be used in Juliet Basin projects was inspected, but found it was not polluted.

“We are asking the Fukuoka Defense Facilities Administration Bureau to provide us with a written inspection result,” he added. “We have not received any complaints or heard from witnesses among the residents suggesting that oil or any other kind of hazardous substance was found, such as in the ocean.”

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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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