Tsunami Debris Cleanup: Everybody do your share

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If you find tsunami debris, send an email to [email protected] We at Enformable would like to know about it, too; email us at [email protected]


Goshi Hosono, the Japanese Environment Minister announced that Japan will send a team of experts from JEAN, a Tokyo-based non-governmental organization that deals with ocean waste problems, to the United States to study and monitor the impact of debris from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami as it reaches shores on the west coast.

Hosono said addressing the issue of tsunami debris hitting overseas coasts is quite important, and the government will help affected areas to tackle the problem.

The tsunami debris field

Officials estimate about 5 million tons of debris was carried away in the tsunami. Currently, the bulk of the debris is north of Hawaii, it is estimated that 70 percent of the 5 million tons sank near Japan, whatever is washing up now is only a reminder of the pending arrivals which should peak sometime in late 2013 or even later.

It is estimated that over 1.5 million tons of debris is still drifting in the Pacific, recently a portion of a destroyed house was washed up near the northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, about 120 miles west of Seattle on the Makah Indian Reservation, the most recent bizarre offering of the sea.  Other notable objects have included a boat, which was sunk, another boat which washed ashore at Cape Disappointment State Park, a freight container containing a motorcycle, a 66 foot dock (which cost over $80,000 to have the structure removed from the beach), the list continues to grow.

“Look… a shiny object”!

Much of this debris is washing ashore, and questions about disposal have ballooned into  an international news story.  So far tsunami debris has been found in Alaska, British Columbia, Canada, Washington, and Oregon, up and down the entire North American west coast.

“Beachgoers may notice a gradual increase in debris on beaches over many years, in addition to marine debris that normally washes up, depending on where ocean currents carry it,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

An International Pacific Research Center simulation shows debris hitting the California coast in “Year 2” — which began in March. The peak would be in “Year 3.” If that turns out to be correct, we’ll be seeing more debris through next year.

Returning items to Japan

Japan has stated that all items of meaning should be returned, but has of yet to release examples of what may or may not be of importance, or a key list of items to look for.

It’s pretty apparent to me who will wind up paying for clean up, and that is the coastal communities, and the taxpayer. Attempting to return things that have washed up to the original owners is a waste of money and we shouldn’t be obligated to do so, alternatives to this should be explored, but they are the exception and not the rule.

As for the Japanese, if they want something returned then THEY can pay for the costs to do so, unless a charitable individual or business wants to step up for a particular piece.  The process should be amiable enough, if some sort of list of “popular items” can be published for interested readers to be on the lookout for.

Threat to the fishing industry

The arrival of debris from the tsunami has worried officials on the West Coast and in Alaska. They say it will be expensive to clean and could carry invasive species – a serious threat to the fishing industry. This led Washington State Governor Chris Gregoire to call for federal help dealing with the debris, but no real answer has been found for who will ultimately be doing the work of cleaning up Japan’s tsunami debris.

“As far as who pays, there is no single budget set aside for it at this point,” Oregon’s Department of Parks and Recreation spokesman Chris Havel told msnbc.com. “We are working with the governor’s office and federal legislators to try and shield coastal communities from the direct cost as much as we can, but there are no concrete answers yet.”

The response to date in North America has been insufficient. Officials so far have been unable to spot even large pieces of debris, like the floating dock which washed ashore in Oregon.  What can be said about any coastal defense that allows an object the size of this dock with its risk of invasive species drift to shore unchallenged?

Since early June, the city of Long Beach, in Southern California, has reported “three or four different kinds of Styrofoam,” and “lots of plastic bottles” arriving at beaches in heretofore unseen quantities.

“It’s everywhere,” says Carey Morishige, the Pacific Islands coordinator of the marine debris program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It’s spread out across nearly the entire Pacific Ocean.” Morishige also was sure to note that the debris can’t really be tracked from above — it’s too hard to see. So the NOAA uses computer models to predict its movement.

“All marine debris does not move the same,” she says. “It depends on what the particular item is. If it sticks above the water quite a lot, winds tend to move the item faster.”

What should be done?

I am not a prophetic seer, however it is not beyond the realms of expectation that those with the ability to do anything, will simply do nothing but bicker over who is responsible to clean this up for years, and in the meantime, the problem will only get worse.

Time is money, and talk is not going to get the job done.  It’s time to get the debate over with because it’s going to get worse before it’s all over with, if it ever will be.

By the time they come to an agreement it will be too late. Just like the Chinese carp problem in the Chicago-Area rivers, which they merely argued about for years, and now it is too late to do anything.

There are hundreds of examples just like that all over this country.  The locals know best, and where they need help, they should be able to make it known, and have the need filled.  This means that the Federal Government NEEDS to step up and pay for this, so it does not bankrupt local governments.

Let the locals take care of it and let the Feds reimburse them. In return the expectation should be to see a dramatic increase in jobs and equal decline of welfare recipients on the West Coast, as there is lots of WORK.  With all of the people out of work right now it shouldn’t be too hard to find enough workers to clean up the mess in the communities affected.

The problem is easily solved when you stop expecting someone else to clean it up and also pay for it.  We cannot allow a great fleecing, like that which was witnessed after Hurricane Katrina.  Only when tax payer money is involved, does it cost eighty-four thousand dollars to remove a sixty foot dock.

The notion of billing the Japanese for polluting our beaches with “their” earthquake and tsunami is repugnant. It was a horrible natural disaster that will impact them for more than a generation, to do so would be akin to billing a trauma victim for your laundry when they get blood on you.

So to those on the West Coast remember, “Government is good for doing things for people that they can’t do for themselves.”

One more thing

And while we are questioning eco-fiscal-responsibility: What nation owns the responsibility to clean up the non-Tsunami-related, massive “Sea of Plastic” currently swirling around the central Pacific, and caused in no small part I am told, by the Americans love affair with plastic bottles and bags. If we start telling nations to clean up “their messes” and they may just demand the same of us.

While we are cleaning up, we need to think about what we are going to do with all the radioactive waste from our nuclear reactors, the Yucca Mountain project is in more question now than ever, and the waste keeps on piling up.

It makes the temporary trash from Japan look like child’s play. With the storage of it being left to the power companies, there will come a time when the power companies can no longer afford to keep them secure. When you buy a company you buy the assets and liabilities, which in this case can pile up for centuries.

The bottom line

When responding to disaster or preparing for pending tribulations, money is our headache, not the action. If we didn’t worry about money and focused on the action, then it would get done.  Money is hindering our ability to function quickly in times of disaster.

If we didn’t worry about the money end of it and people just got out there and got it done, would it in fact be resolved quicker? It is my experience that when we divide an issue and say “it’s your problem” we limit our action and further divide ourselves from one another.

This is not tsunami debris, it is “the bell that tolls for thee,” and for all of us.

Source: NHK

Source: The Telegraph

Source: MSNBC

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