Hawaii County Mayor’s Office on Japan Tsunami Debris “We are Prepared for Whatever Will Be Washed Up…”

Hawaii County Mayor’s Office on Japan Tsunami Debris “… We are Prepared for Whatever Will Be Washed Up…”

OSHIMA ISLAND, Japan (April 1, 2011) – Debris and homes lay in rubble on Oshima Island, Japan following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Marines with the 31s Marine Expeditionary Unit and Sailors with the Essex Amphibious Ready Group are on Oshima Island to help clear a harbor and assist with cleaning debris from local schools and government buildings in support of Operation Tomodachi. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eva-Marie Ramsaran/released)

Tsunami debris from the March 11th, 8.9 earthquake that destroyed parts of Northern Japan is expected to come ashore to the Hawaii Islands according to recent studies.

Tsunami Debris

PACIFIC OCEAN (March 13, 2011) An aerial view of debris from an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck northern Japan. The debris was inspected by a helicopter-based search and rescue team from the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alexander Tidd/Released)

The following two letters were sent in to the Hawaii County Mayor’s office recently regarding the expected debris that will be washing up on Hawaii’s Islands in the next few years:

PACIFIC OCEAN (March 13, 2011) An aerial view of debris from an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck northern Japan. The debris was inspected by a helicopter-based search and rescue team from the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dylan McCord/Released)

Dear Troubleshooter,

Tons of debris from Japan will soon be washing up on our beaches. Literally tons of this, containing whole houses, shoes with feet in them, machines, anything and everything, will be deposited on our beaches that catch these currents. An unknown quantity of this debris will be radioactive, and will pose an attractive danger to the populace. What are you planning to do to address this problem?

Concerned about Debris

In the same mailbag:

Dear Troubleshooter,

I am 12 years old, and I am currently writing an article on the tsunami debris that is floating here from Japan. I was wondering if you have any cleanup and disposal plans in place for when it arrives at our island

Young Writer

PACIFIC OCEAN (March 29, 2011) Recovered boats and debris are on the aft deck of the Military Sealift Command rescue and salvage ship USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anthony R. Hayes/Released)

The Counties response:

Aloha Concerned and Young,

Mahalo for your inquiries. Yes, we are prepared for whatever will be washed up on our shores and we already have protocols for the various items that have routinely been washing ashore for many, many years. Hawaii County Civil Defense is charged with making sure that items of danger will be cleared from our shorelines.

While we may not initially have personnel on constant lookout for debris, we are confident that those who live, work and play along the shoreline will inform us of dangerous debris, just as they do now when such items wash ashore. Should large amounts of debris begin littering our shorelines, we would likely assign county personnel to make regular inspections and, if necessary, sweeps.

That being said, no one really knows how much debris is in the ocean or how much will end up on our shorelines. While there was an estimated 20 million tons of debris that was washed into the ocean by the March 11 tsunami, it is also estimated that the debris lies in a field 2,000 miles long by 1,000 miles wide. That’s 2 million square miles, or equal to three times the size of Alaska, or roughly the size of Texas, California, Montana, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado … multiplied by two.

From what the scientists have said, this will not be the rumored field of debris that someone can walk on, but there certainly will be an increase in the amount of flotsam that comes ashore. The unknown is how much of an increase.

Whatever it is, we will be prepared to make sure our beaches are clean and safe if and when it does arrive.

Two other points:

- Coincidentally, the debris field is expected to hit the West Coast of North America as this article is published, so let’s all keep an eye out for news about the debris field.

- Should you happen to find personal items washed up on shore that may be able to be identified, there are a number of people on the Internet who have offered to try any return them to their owners. Use your discretion before handling items, and before you contact anyone on the Internet.

One Response

  1. WHO is going to clean up the mess? Our county gov? And how are we suppost to handle radioactive materials, where are they going to be dumped? Hilo land fill is over filled already! Civil Defense is going to go to South Point and have massive clean-ups, I would like to see that. And who is going to pay for the over time ?

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