If there was ever any doubt that we are neighbors with the rest of the Pacific Rim, it washed away this week when a large section of dock from Japan came ashore on the Oregon Coast. It is, apparently, the first of the flotsam and jetsam from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
While everyone knew this would happen, it still raised a host of questions.
How did something this big andndash; and obviously a maritime hazard andndash; escape notice until it hit the beach? The ocean is obviously too big to monitor that closely.
What kind of critters and bugs did it bring with it, and are they a hazard? Lots andndash; maybe billions andndash; so the dock was given a thorough cleaning before they could infiltrate our edge of the vast ocean.
Should we be worried? Or is this all a part of a natural process that should be left to Mother Nature? No one knows.
How much more is out there, and when is it coming to our beaches? Since this dock is the first major find, it's very hard to know. This is earlier than first predicted.
Is it radioactive? No, but they tested it right away.
Here's the best advice from NOAA; you can find more at http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/info/japanfaqs.html
Use common sense if you find something on the beach.
If it's normal litter (bottles, cans, buoys), pick it up and trash it. If it looks hazardous andndash; chemicals, something large like the dock, something organic andndash; call 911 to file a report.
If it looks like a personal keepsake that might be returned to its owner in Japan, report it to DisasterDebris@noaa.gov.
And no matter what kind of debris we find from the tsunami disaster, it can all be a very grim reminder that thousands of people died in March 2011, and thousands could die here if and when we have the major earthquake that everyone knows is coming.