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HOME  > Past issues  > 2014 June 4 - 10  > Local residents and JCP near steel plant join hands to fight for fresh air
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2014 June 4 - 10 [ENVIRONMENT]

Local residents and JCP near steel plant join hands to fight for fresh air

June 8, 2014
Residents near a steel plant in eastern Oita City and the local Japanese Communist Party are working together to bring to light health hazards caused by soot and dust from the plant.

They are carrying out activities including a fact-finding survey of people living in the vicinity of a plant of the Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation. They also made representations to the Oita City and the Oita prefectural governments, the national government, and the world’s 2nd largest steelmaker to do something to prevent soot particles from falling outside the plant.

Two chimneys of the steel giant emit iron-containing sooty smoke day and night. The stirred-up soot accumulates on the windows, the balconies, and in the gutters of nearby homes.

People in the surrounding communities constantly complain about the air pollution. They say, “The window screens and curtains of our home are all blackened,” “The floor of the house is so gritty that our feet soles soon turn black,” “It’s impossible to dry laundry outside,” and “We can’t open the windows even in summer.”

The leading steel producer began discharging soot and dust in about 1975. Residents living adjacent to the steelworks in 2004 established a group seeking to get back fresh air and a normal life.

In cooperation with the local JCP, the group demanded that the national government mandate restrictions on the amount of soot and dust emitted. The steel manufacturer in 2008 installed large dust collectors on its premises as well as dust prevention walls. The city and the prefectural governments in 2012 set a stricter standard, drastically raising the amount that the steelmaker must contain within its compound.

Nearby residents see some improvement but many are still suffering from such health problems as asthma and bronchitis. The group is now calling on the local authorities to conduct a heath survey from an epidemiological viewpoint.

Okubo Hachita, a former Oita City Assemblymember of the JCP, said, “The important thing is to have the company draw up a concrete plan toward the eradication of soot pollution. The steelmaker should make it known to the public, and the local administrations should strictly monitor the progress made so that the corporation fulfills its social responsibility and protects the environment in the neighborhoods.”
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