Polluted with PFOA

Disclose The Concentration of PFOA Treated water / Unanimous Written Letter / Daikin Banned Smartphones During The Settsu City Council Inspection

2023.10.12 14:15 Nanami Nakagawa

Settsu City, Osaka Prefecture, has the highest level of PFOA contamination in Japan due to Daikin Industries’ Yodogawa Plant leaking PFOA outside the premises. However, Daikin has thoroughly concealed the PFOA concentration in groundwater within the factory premises and in water discharged outside the premises, using trade secrets as a shield, not only from Tansa’s pursuit of the case but also from the parliament, which represents the citizens.

On September 27, 2023, the Settsu City Council took action. The city council unanimously passed a written opinion requesting that Daikin disclose PFOA concentrations in groundwater, treated water, and discharged sewage water within the factory premises. Settsu City asked Osaka Prefecture, which has the authority to instruct and supervise Daikin, to request Daikin to release the information.

Stamps to prevent publication on all pages of materials

At this day’s plenary session, the Communist Party, Komeito, and Osaka Ishin jointly submitted a draft opinion document, ”Opinion document requesting publication of on-site concentration of PFOA, etc.” All 18 members except the chairperson voted in favor. This includes the Liberal Democratic Party, independents, and the Democratic Citizens Union, which includes city councilors recommended by the Daikin union.

There’s a reason why factions that normally argue with each other about policy unanimously passed a written opinion on PFOA contamination. Daikin has continued to show disrespect for the city council, which represents the citizens.

For example, the Settsu City Council inspected the Daikin Yodogawa Plant for the second time on June 8, 2023. The first inspection was in December 2021. Over the next year and a half, Daikin’s PFOA contamination was brought up in the Diet and in the media, but Daikin’s attitude remained unchanged.

Cell phones were not permitted during inspections, and city councilors were prohibited to take photographs or record audio on the premises.

The reason Daikin prohibited even recording became obvious when Daikin explained everything orally. No materials were distributed, and they answered orally the 29 questions that the city councilors had submitted in advance in writing.

Daikin did not reveal the crucial matter of PFOA concentration.

Determined that they could not conduct a proper inspection, the city councilors later sent Daikin 32 follow-up questions, including the concentration of PFOA and 29 questions that they previously asked. They also requested the submission of the materials that were the basis of the oral explanation given to the city council.

They received an answer and materials from Daikin.

Answer regarding disclosure of PFOA concentration:

“We will refrain from disclosing details regarding the concentration of PFOA on the premises and in the wastewater, as this is confidential information such as manufacturing technology know-how that affects competition between companies.”

There was a condition that the materials were strictly prohibited from being made public to third parties.

What surprised the council members was that all pages of the document had a large stamp across the page that read, “For submission to the Settsu City Council Civil Welfare Standing Committee.”

As citizens’ elected representatives, the materials must be made public. Citizens are not third parties. They are the people directly affected by the pollution caused by Daikin. On September 22, the City Council made another request to obtain permission to publish the materials.

On September 25, they received a response from Daikin refusing to make the matter public. The “briefing” refers to the inspection on June 8.

“As we refused during the briefing, we cannot allow the provision of materials to third parties.”

Written opinion based on Article 99 of the Local Autonomy Act

In the written opinion that was unanimously passed, they spoke for the citizens who elected the councilors.

In Settsu City, where we live, national and Osaka prefectural surveys have detected the highest concentration of PFOA in groundwater and waterways in the country, causing concern among the residents.

On top of that, they cited confirmation of the effectiveness of Daikin’s plan to install impermeable walls as a pollution control measure as the reason why it is necessary to publish the concentration on the premises.

The plan is to install impermeable walls on the premises to prevent groundwater from flowing out of the site, but it is essential to disclose the concentration within the site in order to confirm the effectiveness of the impermeable walls.

The written opinion called for the publication of on-site concentrations to be “immediate” and “strongly requests” that Osaka Prefecture, which has the authority to provide guidance and supervision, urge Daikin to make the concentration public.

This written opinion is based on Article 99 of the Local Autonomy Act, which stipulates that “written opinions may be submitted to the Diet or the relevant administrative agency regarding cases involving the public interest of local governments.”

Signboard at Daikin Industries Yodogawa Plant in Settsu City, Osaka. (Photo taken by Nanami Nakagawa on August 25, 2023)

(Originally published in Japanese on September 27, 2023. Translation by Mana Shibata.)

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