Tsunami Debris Information

If hazardous materials wash ashore

It is possible that containers with hazardous materials may wash ashore. Don’t touch these items or try to remove them.

Instead, notify federal and state authorities. Ecology and the U.S. Coast Guard will lead response efforts to remove any immediate threats to public health, safety and the environment.

Ecology handles about 3,800 reports of oil spills and hazardous material releases and threats annually – and mounts 1,200 field responses across the state every year.

To make a report, you should call both the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802 and Washington Military Department Emergency Management Division (EMD) at 1-800-OILS-911 (1-800-258-5990). Both numbers are answered 24/7.

Getting word out to coastal communities

Since January 2012, representatives from NOAACoast GuardEcologyEMD, and Washington Department of Health have conducted public presentations and taken questions about the most up-to-date tsunami debris information in:

  • La Push
  • Neah Bay
  • Ocean Park
  • Ocean Shores
  • Port Angeles
  • Seaview
  • Taholah
  • Tokeland
  • Westport

Scattered debris likely along Washington outer coast

NOAA data and experience indicate the vision of a massive flotilla of debris headed for U.S. shores is unrealistic. A new NOAA modeling effort shows that some buoyant items may have reached the Pacific Northwest coast during winter 2011-2012. The bulk of the debris is likely still dispersed north of the main Hawaiian Islands and east of Midway Atoll.

Widely scattered debris may arrive intermittently along shorelines in Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, Alaska and California for a sustained period of time. For more information, go to NOAA’s Information and FAQs page.

Many variables affect where the debris will go and when. Items will sink, disperse, and break up along the way, and winds and ocean currents constantly change, making it very difficult to predict an exact date and location for the debris’ arrival on our shores.

NOAA is actively collecting information about tsunami debris at sea and throughout the region. Please report any sightings — with specific location and photographs if possible — to [email protected].

Debris unlikely to be radioactive

Radiation experts from Washington State Department of Health believe it is highly unlikely any of the tsunami debris is radioactive. Health has continued monitoring for radioactive contamination in our environment since March 16, 2011.

If you have questions about radiation issues related to the earthquake and tsunami, please contact the Department of Health at 360-236-3300, email at[email protected], or visit their website.

Coastal communities working on tsunami response plan

Local and tribal governments, state and federal agencies and community organizations are forging strategies for responding to tsunami debris that potentially could wash ashore on Washington’s beaches.

This effort is designed to help coastal communities and government entities work together to monitor and clean up shoreline debris and to guide local responses in case large, hazardous or unmanageable debris items need to be removed from coastal beaches.

The draft Washington state tsunami debris response plan will be refined in coming weeks and months.

Human remains unlikely

There is little chance human remains from Japan will arrive with the debris. However, if you do see something that concerns you, immediately call 9-1-1.


For More Information:

Printable cards: Contact Information (www.ecy.wa.gov/news/2012/debris_contactcards.pdf)

Flier: What to do if you see debris (www.ecy.wa.gov/news/2012/debris_flyer.pdf)

NOAA’s Marine Debris Program (http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/)

NOAA Frequently Asked Questions (http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/info/japanfaqs.html#FAQ)

ECOconnect blog: NOAA has best information about Japanese tsunami debris (http://ecologywa.blogspot.com/2012/02/noaa-has-best-information-about.html)

Ecology News Release: Statewide workshop focuses on tsunami debris response (4/25/2012)

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