Work starting soon to remove dirt in roadside ditches in parts of Fukushima

Three municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture, as well as the prefectural government, are poised to begin work soon, possibly later in February, to remove low-radiation earth and sand accumulated in roadside ditches in advance of 20 other local administrations also planning to do so. The move involving Iwaki city, Fukushima city and Nishigo village plus the prefecture follows the Reconstruction Agency’s announcement on Jan. 27 that it will provide the local authorities with about 59 million yen in total funding from a state subsidy program aimed at helping accelerate Fukushima’s reconstruction. The funding is the first appropriation of fiscal 2016 subsidies under the program for financing the work to eliminate ditch sediment left in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The agency is set to continue subsidizing such work in fiscal 2017, beginning on April 1, to eliminate ditch earth and sand polluted by radioactive substances but below the level of contamination that mandates cleanup operations. But the municipalities concerned face the challenge of finding temporary sites for storing such dirt, as well as permanent disposal places. Of the subsidies, 49.8 million yen will go to Iwaki, 5 million yen to Fukushima, 3.2 million yen to Nishigo and 700,000 yen to the prefecture. The funding covers half the cost of work but the rest will be financed by another subsidy program for post-disaster reconstruction, thus leaving no financial burden on the municipal and prefectural side. (Translated by Kyodo News)