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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 May 31 - June 6  > Ex-Tokyo Gas worker: Toyosu plant had 120 tainted-rain every day for 20 years
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2017 May 31 - June 6 TOP3 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Ex-Tokyo Gas worker: Toyosu plant had 120 tainted-rain every day for 20 years

June 5, 2017
There are people who have been strongly opposing the plan to build and open a fresh market in the Toyosu district (Koto Ward) since the Tokyo Metropolitan government decided to relocate its central wholesale market from the current location to the Toyosu site where a huge gas plant used to discharge an enormous amount of toxic substances for decades.

Ino Tadayuki is one such person. He was a former Tokyo Gas employee and was once a Tokyo Gas union officer.

He said that he started to work at the Toyosu Gas Plant in 1957 and everyday witnessed clouds of steam rushing out from steam digesters. The steam containing charcoal powder turned into water drops showering down on the plant workers later. The workers there called it “Toyosu Rain”. “At that time, however,” Ino testified, “we did not know the rain was heavily contaminated with toxic substances.”

According to Ino, it “rained” 120 times a day and it would seep into the soil at the Toyosu site for 20 years. The clouds of stream could be seen even from a distance. As a result, this became known as a symbol of Toyosu.

Residues of by-products of coal carbonization, such as tar, also contained harmful substances, including benzene, cyanide, arsenic, mercury, lead, and chromium.

Tokyo Gas at that time boasted that the Toyosu plant was the “No.1 plant in the world” as it operated 24 hours 365 days without cessation.

Innovations in technology contributed to updating the plant and provided a change in raw materials from coal to oil, naphtha, LPG, or natural gas.

A large amount of smoke from the plant converged with those emitted from other plants around the Toyosu district. The combined pollutants in the area was a big problem until the late 1960s.

Tokyo Gas at that time was supposed to detoxify polluted drainage as well, but the utility only diluted it by adding sea water and discharged the highly-tainted water into the sea.

Toyosu is on reclaimed land vulnerable to earthquakes, the flow of tides, or natural phenomena. Pollutants in the ground there can move in all directions. Even if its surface is covered with cement, the Toyosu site would be liquefied and polluted water would be spewed out from the ground.

Ino said that he is sure that Tokyo Gas officials are aware of residual contamination at its former gas sites. The company used to have a similar gas plant in the Minami-Senju district (Arakawa Ward) and the Omori district (Ota Ward). The utility already took contamination countermeasures at the two plants but still maintains them. Ino said, “And they know that to make the sites salable, more cleanup costs will be a factor.”

He went on to say, “Relocating the fresh fish market to such a contaminated site would harm human health in the end as toxic substances may adhere to the fish from the new fish market in Toyosu to be put on Japanese and international markets. As a former Tokyo Gas worker, I will definitely feel ashamed.”
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