Science & Tech

US beachgoers warned not to touch mysterious tar-like substance that’s been washing up onshore

US beachgoers warned not to touch mysterious tar-like substance that’s been washing up onshore
Killing invasive species to protect the environment?
DW - Business / VideoElephant

Visitors to the northern Oregon and southern Washington coastline are being told to avoid touching clumps of an oily, tar-like substance that have been washing up on the shore.

The first report of the substance came on May 19; in the following days, a Unified Command set up to respond to the incident found the substance along an approximately 240-kilometre (150-mile) stretch of coast from Long Beach, Washington down to Waldport, Oregon.

The substance has affected the surrounding wildlife, with multiple birds discovered to be coated in it which has killed some of them. Cleanup teams in the area have been working to rescue contaminated animals.

It's still not known what the substance is although both state and federal agencies testing it have been able to determine it's petroleum-based.

In a statement from Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), response teams have been set to carry out aerial surveillance to try and identify the origins of the tar-like substance.

While they do this, the US coast guard, Oregon DEQ, and Washington Department of Ecology have been continuing to monitor beaches for any further appearances of the substance and affected wildlife.

The public has been encouraged to report any findings of the substance as well as any oiled wildlife however they have been warned to leave the substance and any affected animals alone.

“Coastal visitors are encouraged to avoid touching or handling the tar balls or other oily material. Dogs and other pets should be kept away from these materials. Tar balls are sticky and can get on skin, hair and clothing,” cautioned the Oregon DEQ.

“Please leave cleanup to professional responders who are trained and equipped to handle this type of material.”

If you happen to get the substance on you, the response team advises to use something that can cut through grease, such as soap and water, baby oil, shampoo or dish detergent.

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