Portland/ Weather & Environment
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Published on May 27, 2024
Oregon and Washington Beaches Plagued by Tar Balls, Officials Urge Caution and Zero TouchingSource: Department of Environmental Quality

A gloopy mess along the Oregon and southern Washington coasts has officials urging beachgoers to steer clear of sticky trouble. Since May 19, tar balls and a tar-like substance have been rolling up on the shores, from Long Beach, WA, down to south of Newport, near mile post 146, as reported by the Unified Command. Beach visitors are advised to keep their hands to themselves and let the pros handle the clean-up.

While visiting the coast, the Unified Command, which includes the U.S. Coast Guard, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, and the Washington Department of Ecology, has warned folks to avoid contact with the tar balls that can get on the skin, hair, and clothing with a vengeance. According to their statement, typical beach activities should exclude touching or handling these oily invaders. Pets, especially dogs, should also be kept from the substance which clings like unwanted relatives at a family reunion.

Anyone unlucky enough to come into contact with the substance should reach for soap or a degreasing dish detergent and water, but they should definitely forget about using anything more potent like solvents or diesel fuel. The Unified Command has a clear message: "don't try to clean them up yourself – leave that to the responders."

If beachgoers spot wildlife caught up in this oily predicament, the right move is to call 1-800-22-BIRDS. The experts are standing by to take those calls, equipped with the know-how and gear to assist affected creatures, without causing additional harm. Attempting to handle these animals can be more dangerous than a novice trying to tame a wild stallion.

Professional teams are already on the scene, scouring the coast and prioritizing popular spots for the sticky cleanup. The public has also been asked to keep their recreational drones out of the skies in areas where aerial surveillance is underway this weekend to pinpoint the source of this environmental headache.

As for the culprits behind the muck, samples have been collected and are being tested. The lab coats won't have a definitive answer until later next week, leaving residents and environmental officials playing a waiting game that no one wants to be a part of.