Community meetings on marine debris scheduled

The Washington State Marine Debris Task Force is inviting citizens to three community meetings on the coast to gather feedback and answer questions about the state plan for responding to the marine debris that continues to reach our shores from the Japan tsunami.

  • Nov. 7 in Port Angeles – 6 p.m., Port Angeles Senior Center, 328 E. 7th Street (corner of Peabody and 7th streets).
  • Nov. 15 in Ocean Shores – 6:30 p.m., Ocean Shores Convention Center, 120 W. Chance A La Mer Ave.
  • Dec. 5 in Long Beach – 3 p.m., Peninsula Church Center, 5000 “N” Place, Seaview.

Gov. Chris Gregoire established the task force to monitor and respond to marine debris along the Washington coast. The task force collaborated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop the plan.

The response plan is designed to address both high-impact types of debris, such a large dock or debris containing a hazardous substance such as oil, as well as a potential steady influx of small nonhazardous debris.

Terry Egan, the state’s marine debris task force lead, said: “The plan is meant to be dynamic and evolve over time. Continued coordination with local communities will help ensure our response efforts meet the needs of each community, and that our limited resources get out to the right places at the right times.”

The plan recognizes that incidents involving high-impact debris will be unique and difficult to predict. It is designed to give local, tribal, state and federal responders flexibility in rapidly assessing a debris item, identifying which agencies are needed to respond and what resources will be necessary to protect public health, safety and the environment.

The task force will oversee and continually update the state marine debris response plan. The plan is available at http://marinedebris.wa.gov/docs/responseplan_marinedebris_09182012.pdf

According to , a portion of that debris has been arriving on U.S. and Canadian shores, including Washington. Predictions are that the debris will show up on Washington’s shores intermittently during the next several years.

Pacific County Emergency Management Director Stephanie Fritts said the public can help by leaving beaches better than they find them. “Citizens and volunteers can help keep our coastal beaches clean by disposing of small nonhazardous items in their household garbage service such as plastic bottles and floats, polystyrene, crates and other small objects wherever possible.”

However, anyone encountering potentially hazardous debris should leave it alone and immediately call the state’s 1-855-WACOAST (1-855-922-6278) number and press “1” to reach an operator who can dispatch responders.

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