Just because debris is on the beach does not necessarily mean it came from Japan. The North Coast is a natural repository for flotsam and jetsam due to ocean currents.
The Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services reminds the public that large earthquakes and tsunamis can strike the North Coast at any time, and persons in low lying areas or visiting our beaches should be aware of their location and the evacuation routes to safety.
What you should do:
Tsunami debris is no different than any other debris you find on the beach. If you find debris that may be from the tsunami, ask yourself if it is hazardous or not.
A bigger problem - the Northern Pacific garbage dump:
Debris from the Japan tsunami highlights the much bigger and longer-term problem of debris from human activities in the world’s oceans. Find out more about both tsunami debris and the global marine debris problem at: www.marinedebris.noaa.gov, http://disasterdebris.wordpress.com/
Frequently asked questions:
Is it radioactive? Debris from the tsunami is no more likely to be radioactive than debris from any other source. The nuclear releases did not occur until long after the debris was washed out to sea. The debris found either on the coast outside of Fukushima, Japan or elsewhere in the Pacific has not shown any radioactivity.
Will there be body parts? It has been over a year since the tsunami. NOAA considers it extremely unlikely that there will be any human remains in the debris.
What will the debris look like? Anything that floats such as: Styrofoam, rubber, wood, plastic, boats, fishing supplies. It may include canisters, metal drums and other floatable containers. There may be wire and metal connected to the floating material and sharp edges. The debris is very dispersed and it is unlikely that it will arrive in large concentrations.
When will it arrive in Northern California? Some debris may arrive this year, but the bulk is likely to arrive in the spring of 2013. It will continue to arrive for several years.
Who will pay for the cleanup? Tsunami debris is no different than any other debris on the beach or in the water. Local agencies will manage hazardous debris. Agencies and organizations with coastal jurisdiction will handle all other tsunami debris similar to any other debris found. Beach clean-up groups will likely encounter some tsunami debris along with ordinary beach litter. If a hazardous situation arises that is beyond the ability of local authorities to handle, assistance will be requested from the state.
The overwhelming majority of the tsunami debris will not be dangerous. NOAA is interested in tracking tsunami debris that washes up along US coasts. If the items have identification, NOAA can help trace the item back to its owner.
If you don’t know what it is, don’t touch it.
For hazardous discharges into the environment - such as oil, chemical, radiological, biological and etiological spills, the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center can be called at (800) 424-8802.