Is Alaska Ready for the Next Wave of Debris
Refrigerators, foam buoys and even ketchup bottles are piling up on Alaska’s beaches. Almost two years after the devastating Japanese tsunami, its debris and rubbish are fouling the coastlines of many states — especially in Alaska.
At the state’s Montague Island beach, the nearly 80 miles of rugged wilderness looks pristine from a helicopter a few thousand feet up. But when you descend, globs of foam come into view.
Marine debris isn’t a new issue for the state, but the job got a whole lot harder when the tsunami wreckage began arriving last spring.
One area is scattered with foam bits smaller than packing peanuts. This Styrofoam is just going to get all ground up, and turn into billions and trillions of little bits of Styrofoam scattered all over everything.
The trash isn’t just an eyesore. Birds, rodents and even bears are eating the pieces of foam. Chemicals are also a worry. Among the debris, there are containers that held kerosene, gas and other petroleum products.
Last summer, the state paid for an aerial survey to inspect 2,500 miles of Alaska’s coastline and found tsunami debris on every beach photographed.
Over 8,000 pictures were taken and the debris was more widespread and in greater quantities than anyone expected.
But, officially, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration recorded just five tsunami debris items in Alaska. The agency will only confirm an object if it has a unique identifier that can be traced back to Japan.