State Health Dept. Monitoring Shoreline For Radioactive Waste

Published On: Feb 01 2012 05:11:34 AM HST   Updated On: Feb 01 2012 11:17:44 PM HST

Several federal and state agencies are working to monitor the movement of marine debris from last year?s Japan tsunami.

Next month marks a year since the northeastern coast of Japan was devastated by the natural disasters.

Long-time Laie resident Telefoni Aumua was surprised to learn that the state health department was testing for radioactive material along Hukilau Beach Wednesday.

"I am really concerned. I have family who always come here. We fish here," said Aumua.

But health officials said the program is to protect public health in case any hazardous marine debris washes up on our shores.

Environmental specialists with the state?s radiological health division made five stops on Oahu?s north shore, from Kualoa to Mokuleia.

On Thursday and Friday, staff will sample five beaches on the west side and five more areas in town. It is something that's been quietly under way for the past year here and on Maui, Kauai and the Big Island.

"The Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the state?s department of health radiation section and the clean water branch are all working together so that when the debris comes up on our shores, we can tell what type of hazard it is and how to clean it up," said state environmental specialist Geoffrey Lau.

Lau believes the likelihood of any radioactive tsunami trash is very low. The debris washed out into the ocean before the problems with the nuclear reactor and most of the heavy items have sunk.

"At this moment in time we don?t expect any of the debris to be radioactive. When NOAA has been conducting their surveys out in the ocean, they have not detected anything radioactive either," said Lau.

Scientists studying ocean currents believe Hawaii will be hit twice by the tsunami trash.

It could be as early as this year. No one is sure where and when.

The shoreline surveys have been measuring the naturally occurring radiation so there is a baseline.

The survey involves taking two samples at each spot, at waist height as well as at ground level.

"We take GPS coordinates so we can verify we are in the same place roughly every time we come out. We want to get a consistent sample that we can," said Joshua Marvit.

Aumua said he plans to look more closely at what washes up at Hukilau beach now that he knows that the tsunami debris is headed this way.


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