Tons of tsunami debris from Japan now docked in Seattle

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SEATTLE — Hundreds of tons of debris from Japan’s tsunami have ended up on a Seattle dock. After washing up on North American shores over the past few years, it’s been brought here to be recycled.

“I’m like the unofficial garbage girl of South Park,” says Shellan Hoskinson, who walks around the neighborhood with a trash bag in her hand. “I pick up garbage everywhere, because I can't stand it, it drives me nuts.”

She’s especially concerned about trash blowing into the Duwamish River and other waterways.

“We have such little understanding of the ocean, and the ecosystem that it supports.”

So she was happy to hear that this barge at Waste Management’s Seattle dock is full of debris that floated across the ocean after Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

“I’m glad that they got it picked up, because obviously we don't want it out in the oceans.”

NOAA has been coordinating shoreline cleanup efforts, using funds given from the Japanese government. The 3,000 sacks of debris brought to Seattle will be sorted for recycling. But not everyone thinks that’s a good idea.

“I don't want it here,” says West Seattle resident Duranged Pitt. “I don't want it in my area. Just the thought of what could happen from it.”

He’s concerned some of the debris could have been contaminated by the Fukishima nuclear disaster.

“I don't really know too much, but I did see some stuff on the Internet about some flowers over there growing weird after that. So the possibilities are real. I'm just not a fan of it, not in my area.”

We checked with Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation, one of the agencies involved in the cleanup. According to them, “monitoring by federal and state agencies confirms there is very little risk that tsunami marine debris will contain radioactive waste.”

Hoskinson trusts that. She says there are bigger environmental concerns in this neighborhood.

“We’ve got Boeing, we've got the recycling plant, all these different industries around. At any time, they could blow or make some sort of catastrophe, this debris is the least of our worries, really.”