SEATTLE - Last year volunteers with the Washington CoastSavers collected 26 tons of debris off the state's outer coast. On Saturday they were back, from Ilwaco in the south to Neah Bay in the north.
They find and collect disposal plastics, old fishing gear, anything that can float in the ocean that eventually gets tossed up on shore. But this year things are different. Debris from the March 11, 2011 Japanese Tsunami is likely to be in the mix.
While it is difficult to confirm that debris with Japanese writing is actually from the tsunami, officials with the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary say kerosene jugs, styrofoam, toys like balls and other debris with Japanese origins are washing up with increasing fequency.
One of the concerns people have is that because of the meltdown of the Fukoshima nuclear power plant, some of the debris could be radioactive.
Al Conklin is a radiation helth physicist with the State Department of Health.
He says the isotopes either in sea water or on the debris are long gone.
"But because people are worried about it we volunteered to come out and make sure we haven't found anything. As expected. It would be highly unlikely," he said.
Just last week, KING 5 broke the story on how NOAA's latest computer models factored in wind patterns. Since the tsunami, the model shows how some material that sits high out of the water could well have arrived on the west coast already, driven by the wind. Oceanographers say heavier debris which sits low in the water like wood, is moving on the current, and will probably not show up for another year.
On Thursday, NOAA's debris program did confirm a second piece of debris found on a remote island in the Gulf of Alaska is from the tsunami. It's a soccer ball that bears the name of a school. The first piece of debris showed up a month ago, a 164 foot Japanese squid processor up off the B.C. Canada coast. After drifting into Alaskan waters, the U.S. Coast Guard sunk the abandoned vessel as a hazard to navigation.