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Steel drums ruled out as tsunami debris

Environment
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John Gleeson photo

Two welded steel drums that were made in Japan and washed ashore on a beach near Chaster Park in Elphinstone are likely from a local source, not debris from the 2011 tsunami, B.C. Ministry of Environment officials have concluded.

Two steel containers from Japan that washed ashore on a beach northwest of Gibsons are not debris from the 2011 tsunami, but are likely from a local source, according to B.C.’s Ministry of Environment.

Resident Bob Scott discovered the two bright red industrial-use drums while walking on the beach at Chaster Park in Elphinstone last week. Lying in the sand about 60 metres past the westernmost end of Ocean Beach Esplanade, the two containers were welded together and bore the product name Millionate and the company name Nippon Polyurethane Industry Co. Ltd. in English.

“It said ‘Made in Japan’ on it. It’s definitely a product of Japan,” said Scott, who linked the sighting to a TV news report he’d just seen about barrels from the tsunami washing ashore on Vancouver Island.

Contacted by Coast Reporter, Ministry of Environment spokesperson Stuart Bertrand said it was “extremely unlikely tsunami debris would find its way into Georgia Strait.”

While technically possible under certain weather and tide conditions, “with the Fraser River and other rivers in flood conditions right now, those conditions don’t exist,” Bertrand said.

As well, the tsunami occurred more than two years ago and “salt water would have caused considerable corrosion to steel drums in that time period,” he said.

“Given the condition of the barrels in the photo, they are likely from a local source,” he said.

Dianna Parker, an official with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said tsunami debris is difficult to identify unless it has a serial number.

Because Japan’s nuclear meltdowns occurred after the tsunami, radiation from debris is not a concern, Parker said in a phone interview from Silver Spring, Md.

“But invasive species are definitely a concern,” she said.

Last June, a massive concrete dock from the city of Misawa came ashore at Agate Beach, Ore., bringing with it almost 120 species of foreign marine life. Invasive species have also washed ashore in Oregon on derelict fishing boats.

“A lot of states have put into effect a rapid response plan to deal with it,” Parker said.

An estimated 1.5 million tonnes of debris was carried into the Pacific Ocean after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan. As of March, only 21 items found on the B.C. coast had been confirmed as tsunami debris.


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