Friday, June 8, 2012

Washed up

 
 
You have surely heard about and seen pictures of the debris from the March 2011 tsunami in Japan washing up on the west coast of the United States. It was when reading about the most recent object - a floating dock 7' tall, 19' wide, and 66' long that landed on Oregon's Agate Beach on Tuesday (above, more photos here and here) - that I learned about a danger far worse than than the logistics and expense of simply removing it. The concrete and styrofoam dock from the port of Misawa on the main island of Honshu does not carry the hidden danger of radiation, but the potential devastation of marine plants and creatures native to Japan.Volunteers and contractors worked alongside staff from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) with shovels, rakes, and low-pressure flame torches to sterilize the dock and clear it of 1.5 tons of potential invasive species including seaweed, barnacles, starfish, kelp, mussels, crab, and algae. "This is a whole intact very diverse community that floated across from Japan to here. That doesn't happen with a log or a thrown-out tire. I've never seen anything like this," says marine biologist John Chapman of Oregon State University. They emptied the material into an 8' hole above the furthest reach of high tides and storm surges, before the dock was towed away or demolished on site.
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