Features
The aim of this special edition
[Present condition of soil pollution and the Soil Contamination Countermeasures Law]
Kouji Muraoka

Department of Cultural Environment,
Osaka Sangyo University

Soil pollution is one of the seven types of pollution. The Soil Contamination Countermeasures Law, which is the last fundamental law for the measures on prevention of pollution, was enforced in 2002. However, the law on the control of soil pollution to agricultural lands went into effect in 1970. The Water Pollution Control Law, which is closely related to soil pollution, was also enacted in 1970. The environmental standards in soil were defined in 1991. Subsequently, after they were reviewed, the environmental standards on the 27 items were established. Why is the consolidation of the legal system over soil pollution only delayed? The answers to this question are detailed below.
・ Certain areas of land are private properties, thus, it is quite difficult for the government to impose laws for the preservation of the quality of the soil, unlike in the case of the protection of water reserves and maintenance of clean air.
・ In the case of pollution of a private land, the contamination is usually protracted because a public legal system cannot readily meddle in the affairs of the proprietors. A background factor of longstanding soil pollution, which has not been detected, has been present for a considerable time.
Under these circumstances, the following reasons on the prompt institution of the legal system on soil contamination are deliberated.
・ Plant relocation and the change in industrial structure as a new practical use of a previous plant site are becoming an increasing trend.
・ The momentum on intensive land use of an urban area due to city redevelopment is rising.
Consequently, soil pollution, especially in an urban area, has actualized one after another and the cases which indicate soil pollution have increased. In land dealings, the problem on determining the value of real estate situated in polluted land is also raised. Moreover, the expansion of groundwater monitoring has revealed widespread soil pollution. In addition to the recent large scale contamination, such as organic arsenic contamination at Kamisu City in Ibaragi, heavy metal contamination at Osaka Amenity Park in Osaka, the problem of ferrosilite refill materials over Mie, Aichi, and Gifu prefectures, the alarming cases of soil pollution are still observed all over Japan.
If it is a fact that soil is polluted by social activity or the immediate living environment then public concern for human health will naturally rise. For instance, the Law Concerning Special Measures Against Dioxin, which was enacted in 2002, has resulted in a mass awakening on the adverse effects of the chemical to ones health.
 The Soil Contamination Countermeasures Law came to be enacted only after a severe debate on the measures during the government council, such as how investigation should be conducted, at which level soil pollution should be authorized, what kind of technology should be used in order to ensure safety without hindering economic activity, or an action without affecting the activities of daily living of the residents. This law does not provide regulations for the prevention of contamination but it is the legislation for the removal or mitigitation of contamination which already exists in the soil. That is, the proactive action against soil contamination due to harmful substances, such as heavy metal, VOC, pesticides, and PCB is the law to regulate basic measures so as not to bring about health hazard. On the other hand, the regulation on Water Pollution Prevention Law, the law on treatment and cleaning of waste, and Clean Air Act have been discussed.
The Soil Contamination Countermeasures Law consists of the following structures: i) investigation against current status of soil pollution, ii) definition and public announcement of designated lots, and iii) management of health risk. The cases of polluted soil have been revealed to be increasing as follows: 211 cases in 1999, 204 cases in 2000, and 273 cases in 2001. Among the number of cases examined based on the law, which includes completion, implementation, and discussion, 947 cases were recorded in October 2005 regarding the implementation of the measure. This result also indicates that the law is working favorably. The person who has to enforce the measure and to pay the burden of expenses is basically the person who caused the pollution, wherein in many cases cannot be precisely identified. Thus, the responsibility rests on the landowner. In this case, conflicts, such as who will actually spearhead the action, including the expenditures, or by what kind of technology will be employed based on the level of soil pollution, often occur. In order to solve the dilemma, the establishment of the following norms of judgment in the purification and environmental restoration is required.
・ An assessment criterion to judge a state of pollution, in which the concerned parties can understand mutually, must be set up.
・ A regulation system is always applied strictly.
・ A countermeasure guideline, which the persons concerned can understand and follow, must be enacted.
・ An investigation on the demonstration of technology is conducted and various applications using a relief model is promoted.
・ A financial support measure, such as tax benefits and financing facility, is promoted further.
However, even if the measure against such soil pollution is prepared, a healthy soil environment cannot be created without mutual understanding among residents, companies, environmental administrations, engineers, and researchers actually related to the specific land.
Thus, understanding and constant efforts among the parties concerned as regards the following items are necessary.
・ Understanding of the risks (health risk, risk of business management) of soil pollution
・ Promotion of technology to prevent soil pollution, and examination of the feasibility of the application
・ Execution of the principle of information disclosure, and solution of the problem by soil pollution risk communication
・ Correspondence to new and potential soil pollution (oil contamination, etc.)


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1 Remediation technologies applied to contaminated sites in Japan