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 small appliances.  

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

• Report oil and hazardous items to the National Response Center and Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) by pressing “1.”

• Report large floating debris items that might pose a boating or navigation hazard by pressing “2.”

• Get instructions for reporting debris that is not large or hazardous.

 More information is at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/reportaproblem.html.

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. More at: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/incidents/ocean_shores/3-08%20Fumicates%20sign2.pdf.

 State agencies have other cautions and reminders for beachgoers:

• Boaters are advised that hard-to-see floating objects have been reported in Washington’s coastal waters.

• You may see more wood than usual on our beaches. Don’t burn driftwood. Salt residue from ocean waters stays in pores of the wood, even after it’s dry. When burned, the chlorine reacts with the wood to form toxic chlorine compounds that are released in the smoke. If a beach fire is permitted, bring seasoned, non-driftwood, and enjoy.

• Stripping the beach of its driftwood depletes needed coastal habitat. The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission asks people who want to clean debris from beaches to focus on small, non-natural items such as Styrofoam and plastic. Leave wood and kelp because these are an important part of the beach ecosystem. 

• NOAA is actively collecting information about tsunami debris and asks the public to report debris sightings to disasterdebris@noaa.gov.

 Contacts:

Ecology website (including what to do when you spot debris flier): http://www.ecy.wa.gov/news/2012/itn01_debris.html

Washington Department of Health website: http://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