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Washington outlines plan for Japan tsunami debris

Gov. Christine Gregoire announced that she is directing the state's Military Department Emergency Management Division (EMD) to spearhead efforts in dealing with potential debris from the 2011 tsunami that devastated Japan.

As recently reported in local media, a number of items have washed up on the state's beaches.

"The federal government is the ultimate lead as our state responds to tsunami debris that washes up on our beaches," said Gregoire. "But our federal partners need support to protect our coast and keep our citizens safe. There is no better agency to lead than our Emergency Management Division. That agency has the experience and know-how necessary to bring groups together to address a variety of situations."

State agencies have already begun prepping for the remains of the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011. In April, 50 representatives of local and tribal governments, state and federal agencies, and community organizations met in Ocean Shores to coordinate strategies for dealing with the anticipated influx of debris.

EMD is slated to continue working with the state's Departments of Health, Ecology, Fish and Wildlife, Parks, Natural Resources and any others deemed necessary to the process. The governor announced that plans are in place to coordinate with the governors of Oregon, California and Alaska, and with congressional representatives from those states, to lobby the federal government for funds for any clean-up costs incurred. The state had already set aside $100,000 for these efforts.

"While we expect debris to arrive slowly over the next several years, there's a chance a major storm could wash up several thousand pounds of debris at once," Gregoire said. "That will require far more financial resources than our state has available. I'm confident our federal partners will recognize the need to ensure our beaches, our shellfish, and the livelihoods of those living on the coast are safe and protected."

One of the major concerns expressed over the debris is the potential of radioactivity. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has been monitoring radiation levels in the region since the disaster, and has found no unusual spikes. It also doesn't expect to find any irradiated debris because the debris was far into the ocean by the time the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear reactor occurred.

If beach-goers do find debris they feel may be hazardous or contain oil, they're advised to contact (800) OILS-911. The state's Department of Ecology is always at high alert regarding any potential hazardous materials found on Washington beaches. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is collecting information about any potential debris from Japan, and citizens can report possible debris by contacting them at disasterdebris@noaa.gov.

 

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