Tsunami Debris Tested
5:18 pm
Mon June 18, 2012

Tsunami Debris That Washes Ashore Tested For Radiation

Oregon State Parks managers have two new Geiger counters to scan possible tsunami debris that floats in from Japan. On the Washington coast, state health department scientists are now regularly checking marine debris and fish for possible radiation from last year's Japanese nuclear meltdown. The testing is mostly just to reassure the public, not out of grave concern that radiation will get here.

Beachcomber Bev Hughes noticed the state Department of Health scientist working the high tide line with a Geiger counter. Hughes walked over with a shopping bag full of trash she collected on her morning walk, mostly plastic drink bottles.

Bev Hughes: "Can you check them?" Lynn Albin: "Sure, I can check..."

Many of the bottles have Japanese labels or markings.

"I don't want to be messing with stuff that could be radioactive," Hughes says.

Radiation health physicist Lynn Albin scans the collection. 

"Is it picking up anything?" Hughes asks.

Albin responds, "Nothing."

In fact, Albin says all checks have come back negative since surveillance of potential tsunami debris started in April.  

Washington's Secretary of Health says spot checks of litter picked up during beach clean ups and of returning salmon and steelhead will continue. The purpose is to reassure the public that seafood and the beaches are safe.

Significant sightings of marine debris can be reported to NOAA via email at DisasterDebris@noaa.gov

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

On the Web:

Oregon Public Health - Japan marine debris information:
http://public.health.oregon.gov/Preparedness/Pages/04-2012JapanDebris.aspx

NOAA - Japan tsunami debris:
http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/tsunamidebris/