A “closed” system draining wastewater directly into the sea no doubt seemed like a good way to hide illegal operation at the time. Nagoya authorities are hurrying to locate alternate facilities, but the debacle is expected to impact regional recycling.

On January 24, the Aichi Prefectural Police arrested Koshiro Murahira, president of Kumamoto Seisosha Co., Ltd., a major foodstuff recycling company headquartered in Kumamoto, along with the acting plant manager, on suspicion of violating the Water Pollution Prevention Act. It is claimed that the foodstuff recycling plant the firm operates in Nagoya, Bioplaza Nagoya, has been releasing wastewater from the foodstuff waste composting process into the sea at levels exceeding wastewater standards. The president was relieved of his position the same day.

Nagoya authorities halted facility operation for 15 days starting February 14, under the Waste Management Act. A source at the Waste Reduction Promotion Office, Waste Reduction Department, Environmental Works Bureau in Nagoya commented “Unless the situation shows sufficient improvement, their operating permit could be cancelled.”

The plant is capable of processing 326 tons/day, making it one of the largest foodstuff recycling facilities in Japan. Kumamoto Seisosha is registered as a recycling facility operator under the Food Recycling Act, and certified as an “Outstanding Industrial Waste Disposal Facility Operator” under the Waste Management Act. Bioplaza Nagoya was the core facility in the firm’s recycling business.

The first effects on regional recycling are already apparent. Nagoya has responded by introducing alternate facilities and temporarily switching to incineration, but if the facility remains closed for too long, recycling will fall behind. The Ministry of the Environment is considering cancelling the company’s recycling permit, and will make a decision after consultation with Nagoya, according to a source at the Ministry’s Office for Recycling Promotion, within the Environmental Regeneration and Material Cycles Bureau.

Discharge to the sea remained unnoticed

The first signs were noticed years ago. Annual sampling inspection at the plant showed that discharge was above wastewater standards on occasion, and the city requested remedial action each time.

But why wasn’t this breach noticed sooner? Prefectural police report that a manual was recovered with instructions to release wastewater during rainfall. When information is deliberately concealed or falsified, it is much more difficult to detect illegal activity even with violation warnings or site inspections.

The plant is said to be a closed design, preventing any wastewater or odor from the composting process from being released to the outside, and as wastewater was directly pumped into the ocean it was difficult to notice.

Masazumi Horiguchi, senior consultant at Major Venous Japan, comments “I hope that local governments will strengthen site inspections and compliance confirmation, recognizing that this type of violation is difficult to detect.”