HAZMAT responds to ocean debris

LIHUE — Kapaa firefighters and a HAZMAT crew responded to Kauai’s Eastside Wednesday morning after a 100-gallon fuel tank containing an odorous liquid washed ashore.

Carl Berg, the Japanese tsunami marine debris coordinator for Surfrider Kauai, said he believes it’s the first time a container with a hazardous fluid has reached Hawaii’s coast.

Due to the Japanese characters written on the side and the large amount of marine growth, Berg said he was “fairly confident” it originated from the Japanese tsunami of March of 2011.

The aluminum fuel cell was located on Waipouli Beach near the Courtyard by Marriott Kauai at Coconut Beach hotel, according to county spokeswoman Sarah Blane.

“The container had approximately five gallons of a liquid inside,” she wrote in an email. “Caution tape was posted around the tank while HAZMAT crews investigated.”

Berg and Kauai District Fisheries Biologist Don Heacock were the first responders.

“We moved it to make sure it wouldn’t wash back out,” Berg said. “To us, it definitely smelled like diesel fuel, but the tank was not really very heavy.”

After tying the object to shore, Berg dialed 911. The Kauai Fire Department arrived and eventually called in the HAZMAT unit.

“It did have a hole in it, so it could have leaked the contents out onto the beach or reef,” Berg said.

It was unclear whether the liquid inside was fuel or if it had been diluted with saltwater, but Berg said he was sure the tank had been floating around for awhile.

By looking at where barnacles and seaweed were concentrated on the tank, Berg concluded that it hadn’t been full in awhile.

“It wasn’t floating submerged,” he said. “It was two-thirds of the way out of the water.”

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, Blane had not received a final report from HAZMAT. Additional details were expected to be available today.

“Surfrider greatly appreciates that the fisherman called (Department of Land and Natural Resources) first thing in the morning,” Berg said. “We hope that more of our friends of the ocean will report large debris to DLNR or Surfrider so that we can get it removed before it does much harm.”

To report debris contact the DLNR at 645-0532 or the Surfrider Hotline at 635-2593.

• Chris D’Angelo, environment writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or cdangelo@thegardenisland.com.

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