Tsunami debris onslaught called worse than Exxon Valdez oil spill

A "staggering mess" is building on the beaches of Gulf of Alaska islands bordering Prince William Sound. That's how Chris Pallister of the Gulf of Alaska Keepers organization describes the arrival of what is believed to be debris cast adrift last year by the Japan tsunami. In interviews with KTUU and the Homer Tribune, Pallister said he anticipates a massive cleanup facing his group, federal agencies and any volunteers they can muster.

From the Tribune:

For 50 miles or more, massive amounts of debris litter the beaches. Black snarls of fishing nets and canisters that may still contain oil, fuel and kerosene. Carcasses of urethane foam torn out of buildings in the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck last spring also washed ashore. ... Over the past 10 years, GOAK gained an idea on what constitutes the normal haul of heaved up trash – they’ve collected 1 million pounds.

“What we are seeing is magnitudes more. In my opinion, this is the single greatest environmental pollution event that has ever hit the west coast of North America,” Pallister said Tuesday morning. “The slow-motion aspects of it have fooled an unwitting public. It far exceeds the Santa Barbara or Exxon Valdez oil spills in gross tonnage and also geographic scope.”

Read more at the Homer Tribune -- Tsunami debris reaches Montague Island -- and at KTUU -- Tons of suspected tsunami debris washes ashore in Alaska.