CENTRAL OREGON COAST — Even the Pacific Ocean got into the holiday spirit last week, although a quick check of gifts the ocean provided central Oregon Coast residents might have had them asking themselves if they had ended up on Santa Claus’ naughty list.
On Dec. 22, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department learned that “commercial-sized bags of sludge” were found washed up just north of Newport’s Nye Beach. According an OPRD news release, later that day just north of Florence in Lane County, a beachgoer discovered the likely source of the bags of sludge — a chunk of a damaged shipping container and two nearby bags of chia seeds.
Chia seeds naturally absorb as much as 12 times their weight in liquid when soaked. OPRD assessed the bags that washed ashore and determined they were filled with waterlogged chia seeds, which created a paste-like gel that observers called “sludge.”
Chia seeds are considered a “superfood” by health experts because they contain high quantities of nutrients and antioxidants with few calories. They can be added into breakfast cereal or stirred into salad dressings or made into a pudding.
“The bags were too heavy to move by hand,” Ranger Jason Hennessey said in an OPRD news release issued Dec. 23. “We had to cut them up to remove them, or use equipment to haul them out.”
According to OPRD, at the time of the release, at least four bags had been spotted on central coast beaches, but the department was still seeking information about the source of the bags of chia seeds. Multiple phone and email messages left for OPRD earlier this week by News-Times staff seeking further information on the bags went unanswered.
Beachgoers can assist the parks department by reporting any additional bags and beach debris to [email protected] The department recommends that in the interest of safety, individuals should avoid moving any found debris that can be reported.
The release added that the incident can serve as a reminder to visitors and residents alike that everyone who uses the beach should make a plan to pack out their own trash. Oftentimes, beach access parking lots provide visitors with cleanup bags, but OPRD recommends beachgoers bring trash bags from home.
For more information about keeping the state’s beaches clean, visit solveoregon.org or surfrider.org.