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Task Force to Manage Tsunami Debris

The BC government has created a task force team to handle the tonnes of debris from the Japanese tsunami floating in the Pacific Ocean that is expected to hit our shores.

Debris from the Japanese tsunami

The province will launch a task force in January to lay out which agencies will be responsible for millions of tonnes of debris from the Japanese tsunami that is expected to wash up on Canada’s west coast.

Julianne McCaffrey, a spokeswoman for Emergency Management B.C., said names are being forwarded from people across the province who will serve on the Provincial Tsunami Debris Working Group.

“We have a lot of jurisdictional issues to sort,” she said by telephone Sunday. “It’s not that there’s squabbling over jurisdictions; we just need to get everybody at the table.”

Much of that has to do with where the debris — which scientists say could begin washing up in 2014 — lands. University of Hawaii scientists said in October that 20 million tonnes of debris could make landfall in B.C.

“In most cases, the federal government has authority in the water and immediate shorelines, and in most cases the local authority becomes the lead if the debris washes ashore in areas above the high tide line,” McCaffrey added by email.

“Occasionally, in the case of hazardous or human remains, it becomes provincial jurisdiction — which has not happened, so we cannot speak to hazards or issues that do not exist.”

The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami devastated large swaths of coastal Japan, killing at least 15,000 people.

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