Mystery Canisters Found on Washington Beaches
OLYMPIA, Washington, March 5, 2008 (ENS) - Beachcombers walking along a stretch of shoreline from Ocean Shores north to Ozette are finding small unmarked containers washed up on the sand, generating a lot of interest and some concern about the contents.

The Washington Department of Ecology learned about the mysterious canisters earlier this week. Ocean Shores residents participating in a Dash for Trash event over the weekend spotted the items, and one person called the agency to report the curious find.

But several Ocean Shores residents now say they have heard people talk about the containers for months.

While their exact source remains a mystery, responders from the Department of Ecology believe the canisters likely held fumigants used to kill pests in the cargo holds of ocean-going ships.

"Because the containers might still have some chemicals inside, it's safer to leave them alone and let people who are trained to carefully handle unknown substances take any risks," explained Ecology’s spills response supervisor Jim Sachet.

"If someone happened to collect any of these, we'd like to get a call so we can pick them up and safely dispose of the canisters," Sachet added.

Because the potential risk to human health depends upon the amount of exposure, the Department of Ecology and the Coast Guard are partnering to safely collect the orphaned containers.

Anyone who spots one of these silver, one-liter containers should note its location and call Ecology’s environmental hotline in Olympia at: 360-407-6300.

After receiving a photo of the metallic bottles, Ecology staff researched the Internet and found similar containers produced by overseas companies. The bottles typically contain 500 fumigant tablets meant to be spread throughout a cargo hold. The bottles are then supposed to be triple washed or aired out for at least 48 hours to disperse the fumigant residue.

Because it is unclear whether the canisters are empty or if they still have some of the chemicals inside, Sachet says people should leave the containers alone.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.