Photo/IllutrationA pump, center, and blue pipes are set up as additional safety measures to counter contaminated groundwater, and the floor is covered in fresh concrete at Toyosu market in Tokyo’s Koto Ward on July 30. (Makiko Ikenaga)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Toyosu market, the polluted site for the delayed relocation of Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji fish market, is scientifically sound to use after additional safety measures were implemented, according to a Tokyo metropolitan government panel.

Tatemasa Hirata, head of the expert panel verifying the safety of the site in the capital’s Koto Ward and chief of the Open University of Tokyo’s Wakayama Study Center, announced the finding at a July 30 news conference held in Toyosu market.

The Tokyo metropolitan government also plans to make its judgment about the safety issue soon, and will proceed with preparations for the new market’s opening, scheduled for Oct. 11.

After Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike announced the relocation of the fish market from Tsukiji in Tokyo’s Chuo Ward to Toyosu, it was found in September 2016 that the floor of Toyosu market is not elevated sufficiently to protect the site against contaminated soil.

A Tokyo Gas Co. factory formerly occupied the site.

In 2017, levels of the toxic chemical benzene were found to exceed environmental standards in the groundwater of the market.

By July 12, the Tokyo metropolitan government had implemented safety measures, such as concreting the basement level of the market and setting up extra pumps to lower the level of contaminated groundwater.

At the July 30 news conference, announcing the conclusion of a closed meeting held on July 20, Hirata said, “Safety has been secured in the market’s ground area with consideration for future risks. It won’t affect human health and perishable foods.”

The benzene in the groundwater is currently more than 100 times the environmental standard. Hirata revealed that the highest level of the chemical--170 times the safe level--was recorded during an inspection in June.

But, Hirata said, “When looking at the pattern up until now, it is unlikely that the figure will suddenly increase.”

The Tokyo metropolitan government will soon seek approval from the farm minister to open the new market.

However, concerns are still being expressed by Tsukiji market’s business operators about the move.