Tsunami / Marine debris on Washington beaches

20-foot fiberglass boat found at Cape Disappointment State Park on 6/15/12
piece of the 20-foot fiberglass boat found at Cape Disappointment State Park on 6/15/12

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Forks Dock, Olympic National Park

More Information:

Washington State
Marine Debris Response Plan
(Updated 12/12/2012)

Flier: What to do if you see debris
Hazardous Marine Debris Handbook (NOAA)

Report Marine debris

Washington’s marine debris reporting line (1-855-WACOAST) has been suspended, but you can still report marine debris many ways:

Highly unlikely any debris will be radioactive

Washington State Department of Health radiation experts have surveyed, analyzed, and tested thousands of items of marine debris and found no elevated radiation levels.

As expected, only the normal low background levels of radiation were found, so state health officials have discontinued random marine debris testing. Debris clearly marked as containing radioactive material will be examined.

Anyone with questions about potential radiation issues may contact the state Health Department:

The Department of Health also continues to work with local and federal partners to monitor for radioactive contamination from the damaged nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan in 2011. So far, nothing has been found in Washington that is a health concern.

If hazardous materials wash ashore

It’s important to look for specific hazard symbols and labels when you encounter debris to ensure these items are handled smartly. Every year, hazardous materials wash ashore Washington’s beaches such as:

If you encounter these items on the beach, do not touch these items or try to remove them. Instead, immediately report these items by calling 1-800-OILS-911.

State and federal authorities will lead response efforts to remove any immediate threats to public health and safety and the environment. Every year, Ecology handles 3,800 reports of oil spills and hazardous material releases and conducts 1,200 field responses across the state.

Wood debris

Logs and wood debris are common along our beaches, though beachgoers may see more of these this year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) offers guidance on what to do when you encounter this type of debris in its new blog, How to Handle Wood Debris.

Confirmed Japan tsunami marine debris in Washington

Some items found on Washington beaches have been confirmed to be Japan tsunami debris.

Japan tragedy swept debris into Pacific Ocean

The tragic earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011 claimed 16,000 lives and swept about 5 million tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean.

While it’s estimated that about 70 percent of the debris sank near Japan’s shore, the remainder dispersed in the northern Pacific Ocean.

According to the NOAA, there is no tsunami “debris field” or consolidated collection of debris out at sea.

Japan tsunami debris has been washing onto Washington beaches in a scattered, intermittent manner. NOAA has developed frequently asked questions.

State marine debris response plan

The state marine debris response plan is designed to give local, tribal, state, and federal responders flexibility in rapidly assessing a high-impact debris item, identifying which agencies will respond and what resources will be needed to protect public health and safety and the environment.

The plan also is designed to address potential influxes of small, nonhazardous debris.

This plan is set up so it can be scaled back to conserve resources when appropriate or expanded to address concerns as needed.

>> For additional information about the plan and funding for marine debris removal, see Washington State Marine Debris Response Plan.

Partner Agencies:

Department of Military's Emergency Management Division

Department of Health - potential radiation concerns

Department of Fish & Wildlife – potential invasive species, marine debris removal concerns

NOAA's Marine Debris Program

Japan Tsunami Marine Debris Joint Information Center