March 19, 2017 2:00 am JST

Toxic chemical 100 times safety limit detected at planned fish market

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Benzene at up to 100 times the government-set safety limit was detected in groundwater samples taken at the planned relocation site for Tokyo's famed Tsukiji fish market, a metropolitan government source said Saturday.

That is even higher than the benzene level of 79 times the allowable limit from test results announced on Jan. 14. Those results were from tests conducted between November and January.

The highest reading in the new tests was for samples taken at one of 29 inspection points at the Toyosu waterfront area previously occupied by a gas production plant.

Benzene was detected at levels 80 to 100 times above the safety limit by several research institutions which analyzed groundwater taken from the same point as the water previously found tainted with benzene 79 times the allowable limit, according to the source.

Cyanide, which should not be present at all under the regulations, was also found, the source said.

The new findings, scheduled to be reported Sunday to a metropolitan government panel of experts, are likely to increase pressure on Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, who is due to make a decision whether to allow the fish market to relocate to the new site as planned.

Known for its famous daily fish auctions, the Tsukiji wholesale market was to be relocated to the nearby Toyosu area by Nov. 7, 2016. But last August the newly elected governor postponed the move amid concerns about soil and air pollution at the new site.

Toxins were known to have been left in the soil at the Toyosu site, but the metropolitan government said it had taken steps to decontaminate the area.

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