Good news! The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration assures the public that there is no giant island of radioactive trash headed for the United States. Earlier this month, several news outlets made the assumption that a huge raft of garbage would be making landfall on the shores of Hawaii and entire west coast. The agencies took their information from a map NOAA posted online September 23 that tracked debris generated from the 2011 tsunami. Seeing a large demarcated zone 1,000 northeast of Hawaii several weeks ago, reporters jumped to the conclusion that the graphic was an island of toxic refuse headed across the Pacific.

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While there is no huge, continuous mass of rubbish headed towards the US, there is a large amount of junk spread out over a great distance. Luckily, the debris should not be radioactive as it was swept out to sea before the meltdown at Fukushima.

NOAA said in a statement on their website: “While there likely is some debris still floating at sea, the North Pacific is an enormous area, and it’s hard to tell exactly where the debris is or how much is left. A significant amount of debris has already arrived on U.S. and Canadian shores, and it will likely continue arriving in the same scattered way over the next several years. As we get further into the fall and winter storm season, NOAA and partners are expecting to see more debris coming ashore in North America, including tsunami debris mixed in with the ‘normal’ marine debris that we see every year.”

One to two million tons of debris are estimated to have made their new home in the Pacific. NOAA has acknowledged over 2,000 sightings of tsunami garbage on the West Coast, Hawaii, and Alaksa including an entire 66-foot floating dock. Much of the trash is expected to end up in one of the massive whirling gyres in the Pacific, or on beaches in the form of small particles of plastic. Government officials are still not completely certain where the debris will travel, but will continue to keep tabs on the aftermath of the disaster through their Marine Debris Program.


Via the LA Times

Images via NOAA and US Navy