Fukushima debris island the size of Texas floating to the US
A massive island of debris is slowly making its way to the United States after forming in the wake of the tsunami that rocked Japan back in 2011.
The tsunami killed almost 16,000 people in Japan, caused numerous problems at the nuclear plant in Fukushima, and dislodged more than 1.5 million floating objects into the Pacific Ocean. Now, a collection of debris the size of Texas is roughly 1,700 meters off the coast of California.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the debris scattered by the tsunami has been spread around an area of the ocean that’s three times the size of the continental United States. It also said to expect trash to continue arriving on American shores for the next few years.
Already, objects such as boats, rooftops, soccer balls, and docks have hit various parts of the West Coast. Even more will arrive with the Texas-sized island, but, more than the trash, scientists are interested in the organisms that could be living on them.
"At first we were only thinking about objects like the floating docks, but now we’re finding that all kinds of Japanese organisms are growing on the debris," John Chapman of the Marine Science Center at Oregon State University told Fox News.
"We've found over 165 non-native species so far," he continued. "One type of insect, and almost all the others are marine organisms … we found the European blue mussel, which was introduced to Asia long ago, and then it grew on a lot of these things that are coming across the Pacific ... we’d never seen it here, and we don’t particularly want it here."
The worst-case scenario would be that the trash is housing invasive organisms that could disrupt the local environment’s current balance of life.
Other concerns such as radiation, meanwhile, have been downplayed. On its website, the NOAA says,“Radiation experts agree that it is highly unlikely that any tsunami generated marine debris will hold harmful levels of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear emergency.”
Independent groups like the 5 Gyres Institute, which tracks pollution out at sea, have echoed NOAA’s findings, saying that radiation readings have been “inconsequential.” Even the release of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear reactor shouldn't be a grave concern, since scientists say it will be diluted to the point of being harmless by the time it reaches American shores in 2014.