Tsunami debris still arriving

The report on the propane tank and other compressed gas cylinder arriving on the North Shore last month (TGI, Dec. 30) gave the false impression that marine debris from the tsunami in Japan in 2011 is not still arriving. Another cylinder has arrived out at PMRF. There is compelling evidence by the size and shape of the cylinders and the markings stamped into the valves that these are from Japan. 

It is estimated that thousands of cylinders were washed from the commercial docks by the tsunami. In the past 17 months, the Kauai chapter of Surfrider Foundation has recorded 21 compressed gas cylinders of various types washing up on Kauai. We know that we are not told about all of them that arrived, so the number must be larger.

With all of the markings on the cylinders rusted off, we cannot tell whether the contents are toxic, explosive or both. Because the cylinders are rusted and have probably banged on the reefs and shoreline, they are potentially extremely dangerous. We urge anyone who finds a cylinder on the beach to quickly call 911 and report it. Kauai County Fire Department will respond and secure it for public safety and call in the state Hazard Evaluation and Emergency Response office to remove it properly.

At the end of last year, Surfrider recorded pieces of a small fishing boat, Japanese oyster floats, Japanese plastic shipping pallets, and miscellaneous items which we have found indicative over the 2 ½ years of tsunami debris arrival. This material is caught in the north Pacific gyre and will continue to come ashore for years.

While Surfrider wants to record all of the marine debris washing ashore here and remove the nets, ropes, plastics and general marine debris so harmful to the ocean and the reefs, Surfrider does not remove dangerous and hazardous materials. We do test debris for radiation with a Geiger counter. No levels above background have ever been found. Please let us know if you find any large debris by calling Surfrider’s marine debris coordinators Barbara Wiedner at 635-2593 or Scott McCubbins (816) 781-5883.

Carl Berg, Ph.D., is with Surfrider — Kauai Marine Debris Program

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