Contractor Accused of Illegal Dumping at U.S. 7th Fleet Bases

File image courtesy Kanto Kosan

Published Dec 3, 2019 1:09 PM by The Maritime Executive

American and Japanese authorities are investigating an environmental services contractor for suspected illegal dumping at U.S. Navy bases in Japan.

The firm, Kanto Kosan Co., allegedly discharged partially treated wastewater into the sea at the two bases between 2008 and 2018, then attempted to cover it up. Former Kanto Kosan employees told the Wall Street Journal that the company would use a hose to pump the water out, then submit samples of tapwater instead of wastewater for lab testing.  The FBI, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Justice Department have been investigating the allegations for more than a year, and are also examining whether Navy personnel ignored early whistleblower complaints about the alleged discharges. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga says that the government of Japan is also looking into the matter. 

Kanto Kosan specializes in the collection and processing of waste liquids from ships, including sewage, bilge water, sludge and tank washing water. It operates vacuum truck and waste collection barge and tug services at Sasebo, Okinawa and Yokosuka, the home of U.S. 7th Fleet. It was receiving federal contract awards at least as recently as September, according to public records. The company has denied any wrongdoing. 

The allegations at Kanto Kosan are the latest in a long string of scandals at 7th Fleet, the Navy's largest forward-deployed force. The command is the center of a multi-year investigation into a corruption scandal involving a port agency firm, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, which admittedly bribed multiple 7th Fleet personnel with travel, luxury goods and the services of prostitutes in order to secure inflated provisioning contracts. Prosecutors have netted multiple criminal convictions for high-ranking 7th Fleet officers in connection with the case, and NCIS investigators examined the actions of hundreds of other Navy personnel. Nearly a dozen officers and sailors have received letters of censure or other administrative punishment. 

7th Fleet has also been at the center of the Navy's preparedness reform efforts in the wake of the deadly collisions involving the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain, both based in Japan. Post-accident investigations revealed widespread training and manning deficiencies in 7th Fleet's surface force, driven in large part by heavy overtasking.