Department of Ecology News Release - July 3, 2012

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State launches information and reporting line for marine debris

OLYMPIA -- The state is announcing a new toll-free reporting and information line for citizens who spot marine debris on Washington beaches.

Beachgoers are encouraged to call 1-855-WACOAST (1-855-922-6278) to report marine debris.

They’re also encouraged to remove and dispose of small debris items such as Styrofoam, plastic bottles or other portable objects. If an item appears to have sentimental value to those who owned it, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) requests people move the item to a safe place and email the information to disasterdebris@noaa.gov

People who call 1-855-WACOAST (1-855-922-6278) can:

Coastal beaches are experiencing an increase in marine debris, likely resulting from the March 11, 2011, tsunami that devastated Japan, claiming nearly 16,000 lives.

According to NOAA, a portion of the tsunami debris that washed into the Pacific Ocean has been arriving on U.S. and Canadian shores, including Washington.

NOAA predicts tsunami debris will show up on our shores intermittently during the next several years. However, it is unknown where and what types of debris might arrive.

NOAA encourages beachgoers and boaters, if possible, to take photos of marine debris suspected to be from the Japanese tsunami, to note the location, and to email the information to disasterdebris@noaa.gov

As of July 2, the federal agency had received 569 total reports of potential tsunami debris both along West Coast shorelines and from sightings at sea – including 43 from Washington during the past two weeks. Of the overall total, 10 have been confirmed as tsunami debris items including a 20-foot fiberglass boat that washed ashore at Cape Disappointment State Park near Ilwaco on Friday, June 15.

Items from Asia, including buoys or consumer plastics, regularly wash up on the Washington coast. It is difficult to tell the origin of ocean debris without unique identifying information, such as an individual or company name or boat identification number.

Staying safe on July Fourth

During Fourth of July holiday, Ecology urges people to remember the mantra, “Leave it better than you found it.”

Laurie Davies, who manages Ecology’s Waste 2 Resources Program said: “Enjoying our beaches is an important part of our quality of life in Washington – especially during summer holidays. Volunteer beach cleanups on July 5 have been a tradition for many years – removing litter and fireworks left behind on our beaches. This year, more than ever, it’s important to remember the ‘leave it better than you found it’ concept because of the increase in marine debris we are experiencing.”

Any marine debris that appears to be oiled or contain hazardous materials such as fuel containers and tanks, chemical storage totes, gas cylinders and drums should be immediately reported to protect public health and the environment by calling1-855-WACOAST (1-855-922-6278) and pressing “1.”

Play it safe. If something looks suspicious, don’t touch it. These include any 10-inch aluminum insecticide canisters from grain freighters frequently found in high tide zones along the coast. These canisters can contain small amounts of toxic phosphine gas.

State agencies have other cautions and reminders for beachgoers:

More about tsunami debris

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Media Contacts:

Linda Kent, Ecology media relations, 360-407-6239; 360-791-9830 (cell); linda.kent@ecy.wa.gov

Ben Sherman, NOAA media relations, 301-713-3066; ben.sherman@noaa.gov

Keeley Belva, NOAA media relations, 301-713-3066; keeley.belva@noaa.gov 

Media Contact (July 4 only): Virginia Painter, Washington Parks media relations, (360) 902-8562; Virginia.painter@parks.wa.gov 

Ecology website (including what to do when you spot debris flier) (http://marinedebris.wa.gov)

Washington Department of Health website (www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/EmergencyPreparednessandResponse/FukushimaUpdate/TsunamiDebrisFAQ.aspx)

NOAA’s Marine Debris Program (http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/); FAQ about Japanese tsunami debris (http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/info/japanfaqs.html#FAQ)