An unknown number of 1-ton waste bags were swept into local waterways, demonstrating the ongoing lackadaisical management of these waste sites. Conflicting reports say as many as 17 bags were claimed by flood waters. At least 11 of these bags came from one of two storage sites, one in Tamura City that held 2667 bags, the other in Iitate Village. Contents of ten of bags had washed away altogether as noted in this article, in Japanese. The workers pictured wear minimal protective covering while they haul off empty bags – some of which hang from trees. The bags had contained grass and debris from environmental decontamination efforts following the explosions at Fukushima nuclear power site. More bags could have floated off, but officials have yet to account for them and are still assessing potential environmental impact. However, bags containing radioactive debris are not the only recontamination concern after the typhoon.
Even regular weather patterns can wash radiological contamination down from forest and mountain areas that were never decontaminated. Natural disasters magnify this impact. Since the 2011 Fukushima reactors launched radioactivity into the environment and contaminated areas miles from the site, soils in forested areas have continued to collect radiocesium so that levels in 2017 were higher than levels in 2011 (brown bars on chart in linked article show radiocesium levels in two different types of forest soil). Increasing radiocesium storage in forest soils means the danger from recontamination is enhanced over time, not diminished. In typhoon Hagibis’s aftermath, residents are concerned that this forest contamination may have been washed into living areas.
Residents are also concerned that the flooding of the Abukuma River stirred and widely dispersed radioactive muds from river beds. The Abukuma is the major river that flows through the central portion of Fukushima Prefecture and it was subject to radioactive contamination from the nuclear catastrophe. The muds have started drying and people are incredibly worried about inhaling radioactive dust.
Areas at the mouth of rivers, further out to sea, or anywhere there is natural churn, could also re-suspend and redistribute radioactive contamination from water to land, such as through sea spray. Abukuma River waters travel to the Pacific Ocean and radiocesium concentration in sediment at the river’s mouth can be relatively high.