U.S. Air Force Base Tokyo Rejects Chromium Contamination Allegation, Says Water is Safe to Drink


Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo is home to US Forces Japan, the 5th Air Force and the 374th Airlift Wing. (Kelly Agee/Stars and Stripes)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Authorities at this airlift center in western Tokyo have dismissed as false a claim circulating on social media that the base’s water supply may be contaminated with chromium VI, or hexavalent chromium, a carcinogen.

The 374th Civil Engineer Squadron, responding to a Facebook discussion about the chromium report on Tuesday, said the water at Yokota Air Force Base is safe to drink and no chromium was detected in the Water Quality Survey 2021.

“The chromium was considered non-detectable and was not on the list of contaminants. Our water is safe to drink,” the squadron’s message read. Separately, he said: ‘Chromium is not listed. Because it is not detected.

The chromium contamination report, first posted on the Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page Aug. 24, is not true, a 374th Airlift Wing spokesperson told the Stars and Stripes by phone on September 7.

“There is a system in place to prevent the very concern that the individual has raised,” 1st Lt. Danny Rangel said. He said the Aircraft Maintenance Division, the alleged source of contamination at Yokota, “did due diligence” and dismissed the contamination claim.

On Wednesday, Rangel provided a statement from the wing: “Yokota Air Force Base continues to conduct its operations with careful consideration for the safety of our members, our surrounding community, and our environment,” his email read.

“In an effort to enhance the public’s understanding of our water systems, the facility publishes an annual Drinking Water Quality Report, which summarizes the quality of water provided by Yokota Air Base.”

The first anonymous post on Air Force amn/nco/snco on Aug. 24 described how power sanding the exteriors of the C-130J Super Hercules, 374th transport aircraft, over the past 10 years has released hexavalent chromium into the air. air, after which it found its way into soil and groundwater. Undated photographs and an undated four-second video accompanying the message show airmen in protective gear, on an elevator, spraying a Super Hercules in Yokota as a cloud lifts from the plane.

“As of 2012, a memorandum has been in place that authorizes Yokota Air Force Base to conduct chromium (VI) compound sanding operations in an outdoor environment,” the message read. “Remember that the base location not only has our service members located everywhere, but also that foreign nationals have homes and families in the immediate area.”

Hexavalent chromium causes cancer and targets the respiratory system, kidneys, liver, skin and eyes, according to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration website. It is used as an anti-corrosion agent in paint and other surface coatings.

Stars and Stripes contacted the poster through the Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page, but that person did not respond to questions about the alleged chromium contamination.

A second post on the amn/nco/snco page on August 26 said, “They told us that Chromium VI levels have quadrupled over the past 6 years in Yokota’s water supply and if it reaches a certain point they will shut off all the water for the base. They told us they wouldn’t fix it until it was too late. Apparently [civil engineering] goes to the Japanese government to have a soil sample taken from where we sanded.

The Northern Kanto Defense Bureau, a branch of Japan’s Defense Ministry, on August 31 and Japan’s Environment Ministry on September 1 told Stars and Stripes by phone that they had no trace. of a request to take soil samples in Yokota. .

“If there are high levels, the group will have to pay all damages for contamination,” the August 26 message continued. “Bio says Chrome VI is not leaving the 50 foot cord but how come the levels are so high now? Everyone has turned a blind eye to this and nothing will change until the levels are too high students. “

The post spurred discussion on the Yokota Community page on Facebook, an online forum where base residents raise community issues.

“Any news on water quality issues that have been reported recently?” commentator Felisa Leppo posted on Monday. “Does anyone know where we can get whole house filtration systems for basic accommodations? Or at minimum RO for kitchen and shower/tub filtration that can handle chromeVI?”

This post generated more than 40 comments. Civil Engineering Squadron responded with their comments and a link to the 2021 water quality report, which contains no reference to chromium in the water supply.

Stars and Stripes reporter Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.


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