Japan tsunami debris reaches U.S.

2:51 PM, May 22, 2012   |    comments
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Montague Island, Alaska (CNN) -- More than a year after Japan's earthquake and tsunami, debris from the disaster is washing up nearly 4-thousand miles away in Alaska along the beaches and islands there.

Now, concerns are being raised over pollution and health risks.

"We're gonna cut, hopefully cut across the middle of Montague Island to the outside on the Gulf of Alaska coast and that's where a great deal of tsunami debris has already come up."

Nearly four thousand miles from Fukishima, Japan is Montague Island, Alaska, reachable only by helicopter or boat.

"We're out here in a very remote wilderness, as much wilderness as anywhere in the United States and we're sitting on a landfill."

"This shore actually faces away from Japan actually, but the way the currents and the winds work, it swirls it around and dumps it in here."

"The influx of tsunami debris really concerns us mostly because of the amount of Styrofoam that's coming with it and also the toxic chemicals that are coming. We think they're going to have a really detrimental impact on the environment out here long term."

Chris Pallister has been cleaning marine debris here for 15 years.

Now that task is becoming next to impossible.

"This is urethane spray building foam. We just never got much of that before, and now if you walk up and down this beach you see big chunks. Look at it all down this beach. That came out of crushed building structures."

"I've seen pictures of storage yards in Japan. Huge yards, acres of these things stacked up before the tsunami. Those yards are empty now and this is where they all are."

"I've never seen a big yellow one like this, Pretty big."

"Little bits of Styrofoam all up and down this beach. Billions of pieces of it. The other thing is albatross and sea birds eat this stuff like crazy and it's killing the hell out of them. Big chunk of Styrofoam just fresh came in."

Tests on the first wave of tsunami debris to arrive on U.S. shores have found no abnormal levels of radiation. Still, much of it is toxic.

"I have no idea what was in this."

"Germicidal bowl cleanser, now that's not something you'd want to dump in your herring or salmon spawning area."

"This is going to take years to clean this mess up."

"I think this is the leading edge of the tsunami debris without a doubt, it's all the lightweight, high windage stuff that blew across the Pacific very quickly. I think we're looking at years of stuff coming across, the heavier stuff will come progressively later."


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