Four individuals have raised concerns about their health after a steam eruption occurred during drilling for a geothermal energy project near the Niseko mountain resort in Hokkaido, according to Mitsui Oil Exploration Co. The incident took place in the town of Rankoshi, where hydrogen sulfide and elevated levels of arsenic were detected following the eruption. Mitsui Oil, responsible for the project, is investigating the cause of the reported illnesses while maintaining privacy regarding the specific symptoms.
The drilling operations, conducted by Mitsui Oil, commenced on June 25 to assess the potential of the geothermal resource. Four days later, the steam eruption occurred, prompting concerns about the impact on local residents. The first reports of illness came earlier in the week, involving a woman who delivered lunch at the site and was temporarily hospitalized for hydrogen sulfide poisoning, as well as a resident of Rankoshi. However, Mitsui Oil announced on Saturday that two additional individuals have come forward, expressing their discomfort.
While the 18 workers present at the site during the incident have not reported any health problems, the company confirmed that no hydrogen sulfide was detected beyond the restricted areas. The focus now lies on understanding the cause of the illnesses experienced by the affected individuals.
The water collected in a nearby area revealed an alarming level of arsenic, exceeding the standard limits for drinking water by 1,590 times and for agricultural use by 318 times, according to Mitsui Oil and local authorities. As a response, the company has been disposing of the accumulated water from the steam eruption by redirecting it to an area approximately 500 meters away from a popular tourist pond.
During a press conference in Rankoshi, Mitsui Oil President Hidenori Harada stated that the Hokkaido government has instructed the company to cease dumping the water outside the site. However, constructing a pipeline to redirect the water to a well approximately 1 kilometer away is expected to take around two weeks.
The incident has raised concerns about the potential impact on the environment and public health. Authorities are closely monitoring the situation to ensure the safety of residents and workers involved in the geothermal energy development project. Mitsui Oil Exploration Co. continues to collaborate with relevant parties to investigate the cause of the steam eruption and address the health concerns raised by the affected individuals.
As the investigation unfolds, attention is focused on implementing necessary measures to mitigate any potential risks associated with the geothermal project, safeguarding the well-being of the local community and maintaining the ecological balance of the region.
Please note that the information provided is based on available sources, and any developments in the situation may alter the course of actions taken by the authorities and the company involved.