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article imageFloating debris from tsunami-hit Japan could reach US west coast

By Leo Reyes     Apr 1, 2011 in Environment
The pristine beaches of the US west coast could become a dumping ground for flotsam or debris coming from the sunken vessels in the tsunami-hit northeastern Japan in one to three years.
Scientists say wind and ocean currents will push flotsam from its origin in Japan onto the shores of the US west coast. Most of these debris would come from cargoes of vessels or ships hit by the monster tsunami that ravaged northeastern Japan last March 11, killing thousands of residents in the coastal areas.
"I'm fascinated to see what actually makes it over here, compared to what might sink or biodegrade out there," said Anderson, 57, a plumber and avid beachcomber who lives in the coastal town of Forks, Wash.
Curt Ebbesmeyer, a Seattle oceanographer who has spent decades tracking flotsam said the the debris will likely hit Washington, Oregon and California and will be carried by ocean current towards Hawaii and back to Asia.
"Ebbesmeyer, who has traced Nike sneakers, plastic bath toys and hockey gloves accidentally spilled from Asia cargo ships, is now tracking the massive debris field moving across the Pacific Ocean from Japan. He relies heavily on a network of thousands of beachcombers such as Anderson to report the location and details of their finds", Philstar.com reports.
"If you put a major city through a trash grinder and sprinkle it on the water, that's what you're dealing with," he said.
As to whether any of the debris might be radioactive from the devastation at Japanese nuclear power plants, James Hevezi, chair of the American College of Radiology Commission on Medical Physics, said there could be, the report added.
"But it would be very low risk," Hevezi said. "The amount that would be on the stuff by the time it reached the West Coast would be minimal."
The report did not say how much debris are going to be left behind when the ocean current takes them back to Asia and to other parts of the Pacific ocean.
Meanwhile, the death toll from the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and giant tsunami that hit northeastern Japan last March 11 has reached 11, 620," Philstar.com says.
More about Japan, floating debris, Tsunami, Earthquake