Photo/IllutrationA huge amount of a fire-extinguishing agent leaks at the U.S. Air Force's Kadena Air Base in Okinawa Prefecutre in 2013 in an image obtained by Jon Mitchell under the U.S. Freedom of Information Law. (Provided by Jon Mitchell)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

A cache of U.S. government and military documents on toxic pollution at U.S. military facilities in Japan is now on display at Okinawa International University.

Totaling more than 5,500 sheets, the records were obtained and donated by a British journalist, Jon Mitchell, who has been following the environmental impact of U.S. bases in Japan, such as Kadena Air Base and the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, both in Okinawa Prefecture.

The documents show that dioxin, lead, PCB and other pollutants were not adequately controlled.

“Japan is still treated as if it is the junkyard along the Pacific,” said Mitchell, 44. “The contaminated land will someday be returned to Japan, and residents will lead a life there. I hope the documents will be read by many people and make them think about the issue.”

The records reveal that PFOS and other organic fluorine compounds that are said to cause cancer were handled at Kadena Air Base. Mitchell wrote about the problem in The Okinawa Times, a local newspaper, in January.

Although Okinawa prefectural authorities detected high levels of PFOS in a river near the base, the U.S. military has not granted approval to on-site inspections based on the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement.

Mitchell, who arrived in Japan from Wales as an English teacher in 1998, now lives in Kawasaki and teaches at a university. He files reports on pollution issues at U.S. bases in The Okinawa Times and elsewhere.

Mitchell became interested in the military base environmental issue about a decade ago. When he visited a forest in northern Okinawa, he saw a bald patch of reddish soil.

Hearing that a defoliant was dumped in the area beside a U.S. training field, Mitchell recalled a photo from the Vietnam War he saw as a child.

U.S. bases in Okinawa were used during the war so that U.S. bombers could be fueled before going on missions. After the war ended, weapons and hazardous materials were stored at the Okinawan bases.

Mitchell said he examined government records and interviewed retired U.S. military personnel deployed in Okinawa who had health issues caused by chemical pollutants.

“The pollution at U.S. military bases is considered to be a serious issue all over the world, and the problem should be called ‘base pollution,’” Mitchell said. “It is not only an issue of the past but also a problem that could spoil the future after the sites are returned.”