The tragic earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011, claimed nearly 16,000 lives, injured about 6,000 people and destroyed or damaged countless buildings. The tsunami also swept about 5 million tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean. While an estimated 70 percent of the debris sank near Japan’s shore, the remainder dispersed in the northern Pacific Ocean. Some of it has made its way to U.S. and Canadian shores — including the Washington Coast.
Debris continues to be found along the coast even after two years at sea. There is no estimate about how much debris from the Japan tsunami is still floating. However, it is known now there is no longer a “debris field.” Items, instead, are scattered across a vast ocean area about three times the size of the continental United States.
Last summer there was a spike of debris along the coast here in Westport most likely associated with the Japan tsunami. Mostly styrofoam, plastic, treated wood, and light bulbs but with marine floats and other lighter items mixed in. Heavier items are now washing ashore with building timbers and other larger debris included.
Beach goers are asked to avoid hazardous mterials such as drums, barrels, fuel tanks, gas containers, gas cylinders, chemical toes, or containers with unknown fluids. The Washington Department of Ecology has a information and reporting hotline for hazardous Tsunami debris found, simply call 1-855-WACOAST (1-855-922-6278). This is for reporting oil or hazardous items or large floating items which might pose a hazard. Messages about any other debris related issues can also be left.