FUKUSHIMA–Deep in the mountains, a 4-ton dump truck unloads burlap bags that land with a thud in a hole shaped like a swimming pool 25 meters long and more than 2 meters deep.
Another dump truck soon arrives, also filled with burlap bags.
The two male workers in the first truck wash off the tires and then rumble off.
The Fukushima city government has not made this place known to the public, even to residents living near the area. That’s because it is the dumping site for huge amounts of radioactive sludge and dirt collected by city residents cleaning up and decontaminating their neighborhoods.
The Asahi Shimbun was not the only witness to this secret dumping operation. A 74-year-old man who lives near the site with six family members, including his two grandchildren, said he has seen many dump trucks coming and going.
“I am strongly opposed to them bringing such a large amount of radioactivity-contaminated dirt here,” he said. “Even if authorities say it is a ‘temporary’ dumpsite, can they tell what they will do next?”
One woman in her 60s involved in the effort complained, “Tokyo residents benefit from the nuclear power plant, but we’re forced to clean gutters because of the radioactive fallout.”
After four hours of cleaning, 5,853 bags of dirt were piled high. Radiation levels dropped to half in some areas, an official said.
The 67-year-old leader of the neighborhood association glanced at a dosimeter and said, “As we had feared, the figure has passed the (permissible) level.”
It was 9.9 microsieverts of radiation, the maximum measurement of the dosimeter.
One resident asked the neighborhood association leader where the bags would go.
“I asked that to a city official once,” the leader said. “I was told not to ask this particular question since it’s not that simple.”
(This article was written by Noriyoshi Otsuki and Satoru Murata.)