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Kauai residents report spike in tsunami debris


LIHUE » A new wave of tsunami debris is washing up on Kauai’s beaches, raising concerns about its impact on the island’s reefs and marine life.

The debris, which includes some large pieces from refrigerators and a floating dock, is being monitored by the Surfrider Foundation of Kauai. Carl Berg, the foundation’s chairman, told The Garden Island  that Surfrider began finding very large, black buoys from Japanese oyster culture rafts last summer. He said more large pieces are being found now, including pieces from three different refrigerators and a floating dock that have washed up on north and east-facing shores.

"Since February, it’s really piling up," said Carl Berg, chairman of the Surfrider Foundation of Kaua’i. "It’s sort of like we’ve finally gotten the wave."

He said large buoys, pieces of high-density foam, a clump of nets with 13 large floats attached, 23 large fishing floats and pieces of three different refrigerators have been found, as well as piece of floating dock washed up on north- and east-facing shores.

"You can just imagine a refrigerator pounding against the reef at Larsen’s (Beach)," he said.

Another concern is that some of the items have had plant and animal life attached to them. Berg said that is why it is important to get the debris off the beach and prevent them from being washed back out to sea.

"There (are) plants and animals coming in that we don’t want to get established here," he said.

Berg said that Surfrider has been testing the debris with a Geiger counter, which measures nuclear radiation, and all tests have shown very low radiation levels.

"You get more radiation lying on the beach from the sun and sand than from picking up a piece of debris," he said.

However, Berg said, even if radiation isn’t a problem, the items still could contain chemicals or other hazardous material. He advised caution when picking up any trash on the beach.

Earlier this month, Berg and Don Heacock of the Department of Land and Natural Resources removed a truckload of refrigerators, floats and pieces of docks from the beaches, after testing each for radiation.

"There is more out there to be removed from remote beaches," Berg said.

A lot of the recent debris has been pushed into shore by wind and ocean currents, and Berg said that he expects more to arrive in the coming months and years.

"This is just the first bit," he said.

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