Debris that floats and is the size of an island

English: PACIFIC OCEAN (March 13, 2011) An aer...

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We usually think of debris and debris removal as things to deal with shortly after the response phase of a disaster.  In this case huge quantities of debris must be dealt with during the long term recovery phase. Talk about  far-reaching effects:  the debris is traveling for thousands of miles in the ocean and is impacting nations on the other side of the globe.

Scientists on the west coast have determined that the first signs of a huge, multi-year hazard is arriving on U.S. shores: debris from the massive tsunami that occurred in March. See First debris from Japanese earthquake/tsunami reaches Olympic Peninsula.  The [Olympic] Pennisula Daily News that that islands of debris from the March 11 Japan tsunami that are slowly floating toward the Pacific. Some details from that article:

Tons of debris washed out to sea when a tsunami struck northern Japan after a massive magnitude-9.0 earthquake March 11.

About a quarter of the 100 million tons of debris from Japan is expected to make landfall on beaches from southern Alaska to California, possibly in volumes large enough to clog ports, Ebbesmeyer said.

Using models from a historic shipwreck that occurred 20 miles off Neah Bay, Ebbesmeyer and Ingraham have determined the path of debris that comes into that area off the Washington coast.

They said debris will be snagged by currents leading into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and that a large portion of it will end up on beaches from the mouth of the Elwha River to Port Townsend.

Many ocean models have shown that the massive congregation of flotsam that washed away from devastated Japanese coastal cities is in the middle of the Pacific and won’t make landfall in the U.S. for another year or two.

In the U.S., the debris may clog seaports, affect marine life, and make boating more hazardous.  And who will bear the cost of clearing the debris?

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