Health Dept. warning
on gas cylinders
Dozens of small containersBy Helen Altonn
that can contain lethal gases have
shown up on isle beaches
Island beaches soon will have some new signs with big white letters on black saying "DANGER."
The state Health Department is posting them to warn people to stay away from compressed-gas cylinders -- some with lethal gases -- washing in from sea.
The department yesterday cautioned beach-goers against disturbing the cylinders. They instead should call 586-4249 to report them.
Bruce Anderson, deputy director of environmental health, said 32 cylinders have been found on beaches in the past year. Most were found on the windward and north shores of Oahu and Kauai.
Department spokesman Patrick Johnston said three were located yesterday. One at Black Point Beach was a propane tank, smaller than the usual cylinders, he said.
He said the department issued an advisory about nine months ago after the cylinders began appearing.
They've been showing up more frequently, so concerned agencies felt the public should be alerted and warning signs posted, Johnston said. The fear is that children, unaware of the danger, may fool around with them, he said.
Some of the cylinders have ammonia, chlorine and possibly other dangerous gases, and mishandling one "could be fatal," Anderson said.
They're believed to be coming in from fishing vessels, most likely from foreign ports, he said. Most appear to have been in the water a long time and have deteriorated, he said.
The cylinders are just one example of a critical problem of garbage being dumped into the ocean by ships, Anderson said.
"Parts of Oahu's North Shore -- in particular, the beaches around Laie and the Malaekahana recreation area -- are littered with old nets and other garbage obviously discarded from boats," he said.
"The material needs to be cleaned up and a message sent to vessels trawling the Pacific that the ocean is not their own private dump."
Johnston said gas cylinders generally are used for refrigeration on ships. They're about 3 feet tall and 10 inches wide, he said.
If they're found in a remote area, they can be destroyed on the spot by shooting holes in them to release the gas, he said.
But most have been taken back to sea by the Hazard Evaluation and Emergency Response Office and sunk by shooting holes in them, he said.
He said the signs won't be posted for a long time and mar the beaches. "This is a short-term thing. People just have to get the message."