Soil experts to review safety at new Tokyo fish market site

TOKYO • Experts said they will review safety conditions at a planned new site for Tokyo's famous Tsukiji fish market, weeks after the discovery of potential soil contamination scuttled the relocation plan.

Plans to move Tsukiji - the world's largest fish market - were shelved last month over fears about toxic contamination at the new facility in Tokyo's Toyosu waterfront area.

Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike said at that time she would postpone the move set for November until at least early next year, as she awaits final groundwater testing results at the new site, which formerly housed a gas plant.

The entire site was to have been filled with soil 4.5m deep on experts' advice, but the government retracted the plan over concerns for underground pipes and hard-wiring for the main buildings, without notifying the experts, Kyodo news agency reported yesterday. The site therefore lacks a sufficient soil base for pollution prevention as intended under the initial plan.

"As the precondition that a soil base should be created beneath the buildings has changed, we will assess the current situation and reassess safety," Dr Tatemasa Hirata, head of the Open University of Japan's Wakayama branch and who chairs the panel of experts, told reporters yesterday.

Asked about the timing of a conclusion on the safety assessment, Dr Hirata was quoted by Kyodo as saying: "We will solve the problems one by one. We can't predict when to draw a conclusion."

He also said it is now difficult to build up a soil base under the facility, but the experts will consider that option as well as part of contamination countermeasures.

He said a small amount of arsenic and hexavalent chromium that have been found beneath buildings at the Toyosu site are within safety limits, reported Kyodo.

The ageing Tsukiji market opened in 1935 and its relocation bill runs to hundreds of billions of yen.

Japanese media have reported that postponing Tsukiji's move would cost about 7 million yen (S$93,600) a day, and could delay construction of a highway connecting the current site with an athletes' village being built for the city's 2020 Olympics.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 18, 2016, with the headline 'Soil experts to review safety at new Tokyo fish market site'. Print Edition | Subscribe