Washington State Marine Debris Task Force - February 6, 2013

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Trash bins, supplies deployed to Washington beaches to address recent increase in marine debris

OLYMPIA – State officials who monitor marine debris on Washington’s ocean beaches say they are seeing an increase in marine debris items this winter such as Styrofoam, plastic bottles and floats, and other portable objects.

While it is unknown whether the latest items arriving on state beaches are related to the March 11, 2011, tsunami that devastated Japan, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) a portion of the debris that washed into the Pacific Ocean has been arriving on U.S. and Canadian shores, including Washington.

To help beach visitors keep our shorelines clean, the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has deployed trash bins at Ocean Shores, Surfside north of Long Beach, Grayland Beach State Park near Westport and the city of Long Beach’s Bolstad Beach approach.

Ecology is working with Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission (State Parks) and volunteer groups to assess the need to supply trash bins and litter bags at other beach locations.

The recent increase in debris is coinciding with the next state coastal razor clam season, which starts Thursday Feb. 7.

“While you are out walking on the ocean beach or clam digging, please help us keep our beaches clean. We are encouraging people to pick up and dispose of small, nonhazardous items like Styrofoam and leave the beaches better than they found them,” said Steve Brand, State Parks field operations manager. 

Beachgoers are encouraged to bring their own bags to pick up small, nonhazardous debris. For those who forget, bags may also be available during normal business hours at the following locations:

Global Diving & Salvage, a Seattle-based private contractor, has donated 2,000 bags to the state to help with beach cleanup efforts.

People are urged to report larger items to park rangers when on state beaches or to the 1-855-WACOAST (1-855-922-6278) line. For example, on Feb. 2, a refrigerator with Asian writing and marine growth attached washed ashore at Ocean City State Park in Grays Harbor County. The non-hazardous item was removed from the beach and State Parks is working with state Department of Fish and Wildlife to investigate whether the item harbors any invasive species.

Ecology has received numerous reports of nonhazardous debris including Styrofoam, plastic bottles and light bulbs as well as six reports of potentially hazardous items including pressured cylinders and containers with oil or unknown materials.

In a typical year, Ecology responds to six to 10 reports of hazardous items on coastal beaches. Across the state, the department handles about 3,800 reports of oil spills and hazardous material releases and conducts about 1,200 field responses annually.

Guidelines for reporting large or hazardous marine debris to the 1-855-WACOAST (1-855-922-6278) line include:

With options “1” and “2,” callers will be connected to a person who can dispatch responders and get additional information.

NOAA predicts tsunami debris will show up on state shores during the next several years. However, it is unknown where and what types of debris might arrive. A NOAA map picture with reported and confirmed tsunami debris sightings in Washington as of Jan. 10, 2013, is online.

NOAA encourages beachgoers and boaters to take photos of marine debris suspected to be from the Japan tsunami. Photos may help identify the location when sent by e-mail to DisasterDebris@noaa.gov along with any additional information you may have. If it seems an item may have sentimental value to the owner, NOAA asks people to move the item to a safe place before sending information.

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Media contact:  

Washington State Marine Debris Task Force Information Officer, 855-827-9904.

For more information:

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