Polluted with PFOA

The Town Falsely Reported “800 ng/L” as “less than 1 ng/L.” [Kibichuo, Okayama Part 4]

2024.07.10 14:22 Nanami Nakagawa

On October 18, 2023, two days after the PFOA contamination of the tap water was made public, the residents of Kibichuo Town in Okayama Prefecture came to a certain conclusion.

The Japan Water Works Association’s website published the PFOA concentrations for 2020.

At a public information session on October 17, the town said it did not know the concentration levels for 2020 because it had not measured them.

Who is right, the town or the Japan Water Works Association?

Kibichuo Town City Hall (photo by Nanami Nakagawa on May 30, 2024)

Feeling relieved with “less than 1 ng/L”

On the morning of October 18th, Junko Abe, who lives in Kibichuo Town, received an email from her friend Saki Yonezawa (pseudonym).

“The results of water quality tests are published on the website of the Japan Water Works Association. The figure for 2020 is low.”

“The figures for fiscal 2020?” Junko was puzzled. At the information session the night before, the town had said that it had not measured PFOA concentrations before 2020.

Feeling puzzled, Junko visited the website of the Japan Water Works Association, which compiles the results of water quality tests at water purification plants across the country. Junko found a record of the Enjo Water Purification Plant in Kibichuo Town, which had detected high concentrations of PFOA.

As explained by the town, the 2022 table lists “1,400 ng/L,” and the 2021 table lists “1,200 ng/L.”

Then she found a table for 2020. Junko looked for the value for PFOA.

“There’s actually data…”

The PFOA concentration in 2020 was “less than 1 ng/L.”

It is unclear why data for 2020 exists, a year that the town explained it had not measured.

At the same time, she felt a little relieved, because it was definite that they drank contaminated water for two years, from 2021 to 2023.

However, there was a possibility that the data “less than 1 ng/L” was inaccurate. Thus, Junko decided to call the Japan Water Works Association to confirm the source of the data.

The person on the phone says:

“This is data submitted by Kibichuo Town.”

The town official acts as if it was the first time he’d heard of it

After hanging up the phone, Junko told her husband Naoki, who was standing next to her, that “less than 1 ng/L” was the data for Kibichuo Town.

Naoki called the town’s water department.

“The PFOA concentration for 2020 was listed on the Japan Water Works Association’s website.”


The town official on the phone responded as if it was the first time he’d heard of it.

Naoki asked, “When I inquired with the Japan Water Works Association, they said the data was submitted by Kibichuo Town. Is that true?”

The town official said in a panic.

“I’ll check with my superiors and get back to you.”

Several hours had passed since Naoki had hung up the phone. Even in the afternoon, there was still no return call.

Naoki, growing impatient, called the water department again before the town hall closed.

“This is Abe calling this morning regarding the PFOA concentration for 2020.”

The town official spoke as soon as he heard Naoki’s voice. This time, his voice was calm.

“We will hold a press conference tomorrow to explain the matter.”

16 times the national target

Since the town wouldn’t release any information, Junko and Naoki had no choice but to rely on the media.

From the morning of the next day, the 19th, they waited for the contents of the press conference to be reported on the TV news.

It was finally broadcast on the evening news.

Junko and Naoki expected the news to focus on the fact that value for 2020 existed. The value provided on the Japan Water Works Association website was “less than 1 ng/L.” Therefore, there appears to be no need to worry about the value of tap water up to three years ago.

However, the news was taking issue with the value itself.

“Today, it was revealed that the 2020 survey also showed that the figure was 16 times higher than the national target.”

They couldn’t believe their ears. The news continued.

“In the report to the waterworks statistics survey conducted by the Japan Water Works Association, the town listed the level as ‘less than 1 ng/L,’ even though the actual level detected was ‘800 ng/L.'”

The town did not report high concentrations to the health center

What on earth is going on?

Mayor Yamamoto Masanori posted a document on the town’s website on that day.

The title was, “Notice regarding test results for detection of organic compounds at Enjo Water Purification Plant.”

In a press release dated October 17, 2023, it was stated that in addition to the Water Quality test items stipulated in the Water Supply Act, tests on items of water quality control based on notifications from the national government had been conducted at the water purification plant for the past two years (2021 and 2022), and that values ​​exceeding the provisional target values ​​were detected. However, it has now been discovered that tests were also conducted in 2020.


Furthermore, the test outcomes for 2020 were 800 ng/L, yet this was not reported to the Bizen Public Health Center at the time. When reporting the results for the 2020 Water Supply Statistics Survey the next year, the town made an entry error and recorded the value as less than 1 ng/L.


We would like to once again apologize to all residents of the town for any inconvenience caused. Any information that becomes available in the future will be posted on our website as soon as the facts have been confirmed.

Residents were not pleased with the document.

None of the residents’ questions were answered, including why the high concentrations detected were not reported to the health center, why “800 ng/L” was entered as “1 ng/L,” and the values prior to 2019.

“Was it really just a matter of entering the information incorrectly?” Is it possible that the figures were deliberately concealed?”

“Why aren’t they holding a public information session to explain the situation to residents? Is there something that would be inconvenient for them if we were to ask questions?”

The document was filled with baseless statements that made one think this way.

“Maybe we’ve been drinking this whole time…”

After seeing the news, Junko and Naoki called Saki Yonezawa and her husband Daichi (pseudonym), who told them about the existence of the Japan Water Works Association data.

Naoki’s first words were, “This is bad.”

They thought they had been drinking tap water with high levels of PFOA for two years, yet it was actually three years.

The four then learn something important.

In fact, the government only included PFOA in its water quality testing in April 2020. As a result, PFOA concentrations before 2019 have not been measured. There is no way to know the PFOA concentrations before 2019.

It was certain that they had been drinking it for at least three years. Furthermore, it was possible that they had been drinking it for many years, perhaps even since they moved to Kibichuo Town.

“We can’t rely on the town anymore. We’ll have to do something ourselves.”

To be continued.

(Originally published in Japanese on June 11, 2024. Translation by Mana Shibata.)

Polluted with PFOA: All articles