It has been widely reported that global warming threatens to sweep scores of coastal Alaskan towns into the sea.
Now, the Anchorage Daily News reports that severe erosion is also threatening the ocean by dumping toxins from landfills and garbage dumps into the water.
“A (dump) is kind of like a Pandora’s box of surprises,” said Tamar Stephens of the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, the Daily News reported.
Among the materials of concern are heavy metals and biological contaminants.
The U.S. military has spent millions of dollars to try to halt the erosion at Cold War-era landfills, but funding is in short supply for many small town dumps and some former military bases.
At least five military bases threated by tidal erosion have no cleanup scheduled, the paper reported.
The Baltimore Sun reported on the quest of Stanley Tom, a resident of Newtok, Alaska, to try to raise funds to relocate his entire village.
The mostly Native American town is in such a precarious situation that the next big storm could wipe it out, activist Deborah L. Williams told the Sun.
“The situation is very urgent,” she told the newspaper. The area’s permafrost is “melting like chocolate ice cream in the sun.”
Newtok is just one of 180 Alaskan towns that are threatened with extinction as increasingly rapid erosion sweeps them into the ocean.
Historically, sea ice has protected the land from the brunt of winter storms, but scientists say that global warming has reduced the amount of sea ice, causing erosion to accelerate.
“Fierce erosion sweeps wastes into Alaska waters”
Anchorage Daily News, Jan. 18, 2008
“Warming menaces Alaska villages”
Baltimore Sun, Jan 13, 2008