AFP: Disturbing, relentless flow of tsunami debris to last for years on U.S. West Coast — Expert: Most of it’s harmless, except obviously any radioactive material from Fukushima

Published: March 11th, 2013 at 8:18 am ET


Title: Floating tsunami trash to be a decades-long headache
Source: AFP
Date: March 11, 2013

[…] “In a single stroke, the tsunami dumped 3,200 times the amount of rubbish that Japan discharges annually into the Pacific,” said Robin des Bois, a French environmental group that is studying the problem. […]

Sightings by passing vessels or fishermen, along with computer models, suggest the bulk of slower-moving debris is located north and east of Hawaii. […]

“Most of the debris will follow the gyre,” eventually getting trapped in the centre of the vortex in the so-called Pacific Garbage Patch between Hawaii and California, [Simon Boxall of Britain’s National Oceanographic Centre] said. […]

Debris in the gyre’s northern part tends to split off and head towards the coastline of North America, said Boxall.

It means beach walkers are likely to encounter a disturbing but relentless flow of flotsam for years to come.

“Most of it is pretty harmless,” reassured Boxall, adding that any radioactive material from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant was “obviously” an exception. […]

See also: [intlink id=”hawaii-tv-there-was-a-radiation-person-out-here-checking-debris-from-fukushima-officials-buy-state-of-the-art-radiological-detectors-will-be-with-us-for-a-number-of-years-video” type=”post”]{{empty}}[/intlink]

Published: March 11th, 2013 at 8:18 am ET


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16 comments to AFP: Disturbing, relentless flow of tsunami debris to last for years on U.S. West Coast — Expert: Most of it’s harmless, except obviously any radioactive material from Fukushima

  • Time Is Short Time Is Short


    "If you find tsunami debris, DON'T TOUCH IT. Don't touch it with your bare hands or even with gloves. There will be debris items that will be explosive. There will be items that will be chemically hazardous. There will be items of a radioactive nature. YET NONE OF THESE ITEMS WILL BE MARKED IN ENGLISH AND, UNLIKE IN THE MOVIES, YOU WON'T SEE ANY SUBTITLES. There will be items marked with radioactive letters IN JAPANESE but if you can't read JAPANESE then HOW WILL YOU KNOW THAT IT DOESN'T SAY 'THIS IS RADIOACTIVE STUFF'???! To be safe, don't touch anything that washes onshore!!!"

    • JR

      • Is the tsunami marine debris radioactive?
      Radiation experts agree that it is highly unlikely that any tsunami generated marine debris will hold harmful levels of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear emergency.
      Some debris in West Coast states has been tested, including items known to be from the tsunami, and no radioactive contamination above normal was found. Marine debris in Hawaii has been monitored since April 2011, and no radioactive contamination above normal levels has been found.

      • 16Penny 16Penny

        And from the same NOAA page:

        "What kinds of debris should we expect?
        While we do not know exactly what debris is still floating at or near the ocean surface, it likely includes highly buoyant materials.

        So far, items that are confirmed to have come from the Japan tsunami include vessels, buoys, sports balls, a floating pier, and a motorcycle in a container. Other types of debris that could wash up include floating debris such as fishing nets, lumber, plastics, household items, foam pieces, and possibly chemical or oil drums."

        Link to handling instructions:


        "Be safe: Use common sense and follow general safety guidelines. If you don't know what an item is, don't touch it. If it appears hazardous, contact appropriate authorities."

      • 16Penny 16Penny

        And JR, it sounds like local law enforcement agencies are not dismissive of the potential:

        I have seen nothing that supports the view expressed by NOAA. I did see this:

        "As navigators, Plym and Enis plotted the course of the aircraft carrier. During the deployment, the USS Ronald Reagan was two miles off the coast of Japan near Fukushima during the worst of the uncontrolled radiological release. Jaime describes playing a “cat and mouse game” with radiological releases so that the ship could avoid contamination."

        The dismissive statements from NOAA and others site that the debris was miles offshore, not likely to have been exposed to fallout. We should let debris navigate our aircraft carriers apparently.

      • 16Penny 16Penny

        I had to dig a bit but found this:

        Like the original poster says, make up your own mind.

        and to show there is no certainty in assuming it is harmless:

        "Like most of those other forms of radiation, Higley said, any measurable radioactivity found on debris from Fukushima should be at very low levels and of no health concern – much less, for instance, than a person might receive in a single X-ray."

        So when people volunteer to help clear the beaches it is like volunteering to stand in an x-ray room for a half a day? Sounds dandy!

        Then there is this:

        "This is an image of a decal found on a fishing boat that washed ashore on a Crescent City beach Sunday that is quite likely the first piece of confirmed debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami to reach the California coast."

        So how can they give any accurate forecast from testing 1,000's of pieces of debris? Perhaps, as the Navigator of the USS RR eluded to, the relationship of the debris to the multiple airborne plume releases is more important than the number of samples they tested. I suggest it is not representative of the total population and therefore an invalid conclusion scientifically. Some will be hotter than other…

  • ocifferdave

    It's been 2 years now and many areas that exhibit higher radiation levels than perma banned Chyrnoble ground are populated.

    Didn't peoe move back to Chyrnoble shortly after the disaster? I think they stayed a few years. But when thy started showing signs of severe health decline at about the 2 year onsight mark they began leaving again permanently.

    Now it's going to get really bad in Japan because they refuse to fully evacuate effected area.

  • unincredulous unincredulous

    I saw a video on the internet about this guy who ties plastic debris like bottles together and has made an island that he lives on. It has a beach and trees and a hut. He hopes to someday float out to sea and be his own country. I think we have tie all this debris together while most of it is still at sea. It could be an island for the Japanese who will eventually evacuate. Where else could they go? The bottle island guy could be their technical adviser.

  • TheBigPicture TheBigPicture

    Debris can be dealt with, but not if it's radiated.

  • jec jec

    Japan is already a radiated island, just a lot larger than the bottle guys raft.

  • Arizonan Arizonan

    Listen LIVE now to the Fukushima Symposium in New York City: Live stream link –
    Experts from around the globe!

  • Heart of the Rose Heart of the Rose

    "Most of it is harmless."…No way!

    Jan 17 2013

    Fridge & Other Tsunami Debris Wash Ashore in Hawaii

    The garbage from the tsunami..IS affecting the environment.

    ( Could I also take a moment to point hideous any sort of pollution is to a pristine environment..yep..the thought still firmly implanted in the memory bank)

    Tsunami Debris Problem Gets Worse in Alaska, with Little Clean Up Funding In Sight

    A rationale conversation..about the species affected.

    A Tsunami of Trash Reaches Our Shores Every Year

  • harengus_acidophilus

    Sounds like an ad for Russian Roulette:
    "It' just one bullet, don't care about …"


    • Johnny Blade Johnny Blade

      Yeah Like Russian Roulette with an automatic pistol with one bullet in the clip instead of a revolver and TEPCO insists on their opponents going first!! 😐 ~**

  • norbu norbu

    "Expert: Most of it’s harmless", So this statement to me means they have tested every piece of debris, quit lying. Just admit you have destroyed our Ocean's. They don't want a panic, but we need to get the truth out about this disaster.

    • Johnny Blade Johnny Blade

      The debris is likely to have become measurably radioactive as a result of being in proximity to Fukushima nuclear disaster materials at some point during its trek across the Pacific, but it's the ocean bringing sediment & dead,decaying marine life that perished from the poison lapping at shorelines distant from Japan that is depositing contaminants and will continue to build and relentlessly advance inland as it has for exactly 2 yrs straight that presents the biggest concerns! The beaches may already be much more radioactive than most of whatever tsunami debris that has or will wash ashore(?)!! 🙁 ~**

  • blessings2all blessings2all

    I can see an opportunity for a new reality show. "Extreme Beachcombing".