VICTORIA – The Province and the federal government are making it easy for
people to find out more information about the arrival of tsunami debris on
B.C.’s coast and what to do with it when found.
An enhanced website at: www.tsunamidebrisbc.ca informs visitors about what
the federal and provincial governments are doing to prepare for the
arrival of tsunami debris and provides links to other resources.
Jurisdiction for the tsunami debris is a complex issue involving federal,
provincial and local governments. To better manage the situation, the two
senior levels of government struck a joint Tsunami Debris Coordinating
Committee in January 2012.
The committee is responsible for bringing together the various levels of
government and key interest groups in a co-ordinated response to the
Committee members are beginning to work with local governments, First
Nations and other stakeholders all along the coast. The Union of British
Columbia Municipalities and volunteer organizations such as the Great
Canadian Shoreline Clean-up have also been engaged. More recently, a
letter was sent to stakeholders outlining roles and responsibilities of
the committee and its members.
While planning for tsunami debris presents a significant challenge,
scientific experts have determined it is unlikely any of the debris that
washes up on B.C.’s coastline will pose a significant environmental or
public health risk. Nevertheless, committee members are also working with
their U.S. counterparts in governments along North America’s West Coast
and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on plans to
deal with debris.
The anticipated tsunami debris is a result of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake
that struck Japan on March 11, 2011, claiming more than 15,000 lives and
damaging more than 100,000 buildings. The tsunami washed an estimated five
million tonnes of debris into the sea. It is estimated that 70 per cent
sank off the coast of Japan, leaving approximately 1.5 million tonnes
floating in the Pacific Ocean.
What to do if you find tsunami debris
* Report it: Every year, marine debris from a number of sources washes up
on coastlines around the world. In general, report debris that can be
attributed to the Japanese tsunami to: DisasterDebris@noaa.gov
* Be Safe: If you don’t know what it is, don’t touch it. If the item
appears to pose an immediate life safety risk, call 911 or your local
police. If the items appears to be hazardous but does not pose an
immediate risk, report it to the provincial spill reporting line provided
under ‘Hazardous Materials’ below.
* Litter and other typical marine debris: Where it’s safe and practical to
do so, consider removing litter and recycling any plastics or metals.
Removal of large items or personal possessions should be done only in
consultation with land managers or responsible agencies. If items can be
directly linked to the Japanese Tsunami please report them to
DisasterDebris@noaa.gov with as much detail as possible.
* Personal effects or possessions from the Japanese tsunami: Items that
appear to be personal belongings related to the Japanese tsunami should be
treated with respect. Report them to DisasterDebris@noaa.gov with as much
detail as possible. If it is safe to do so, consider moving the object to
a safe location and include this location in the email report.
* Hazardous materials: As the tsunami washed material out to sea before
nuclear safety concerns emerged, it is highly unlikely that any items
would have been exposed to radiation. In the event that potentially
hazardous items such as drums, fuel tanks and containers, gas cans, gas
cylinders, or chemical storage totes wash ashore, do not touch or attempt
to move the item. Ten-inch aluminum insecticide canisters may also be
found in high-tide zones. Do not open the cap since these fumigant
canisters may contain small amounts of toxic gas. Call B.C.’s spill
reporting line at 1 800 663-3456 with a detailed report of what you’ve
* Derelict vessel, equipment or cargo from a vessel: Report it to
Transport Canada at 604 775-8867 or by email to: email@example.com Do
not attempt to move or remove the boat or cargo.
* Human remains: It is extremely unlikely any human remains from the
tsunami will reach Canada. However, if you encounter any remains,
immediately call 911 or your local police and give authorities a detailed
report about what you observed. Do not touch or attempt to move.
* More information: FAQs and information about organized beach cleanup
activities is available on the B.C. Ministry of Environment tsunami debris
website at: www.tsunamidebrisbc.ca