ANCHORAGE – More than a year after a massive earthquake and resultant tsunami devastated the coast of Japan, the aftermath continues to make its way to Alaska.
The debris includes everything from bottles and barrels to fishing gear and packing foam, and last week volunteers began cleaning it from the shores of Montague Island at the mouth of Prince William Sound. Officials from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration said the garbage isn’t contaminated with radiation from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, but it does cause other concerns.
“When we flew in here and I saw the Styrofoam, especially what was down there in that fresh tide line, it just made me want to weep,” said Chris Pallister, president of the non-profit group Gulf of Alaska Keeper.
Pallister’s organization is one of many environmental groups collecting and cleaning up the debris. Over the next few years, NOAA estimates it will tip the scales at more than one million tons, reaching from Alaska’s coastline south to California.
“They tend to aggregate debris on individual beaches,” said Peter Murphy of NOAA’s marine debris program. “Areas that previously got debris will likely feel more debris and so we would expect that to continue.”
While the organization knows how much debris to expect and where, Murphy said the timing of it all is still up to Mother Nature.