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Mysterious, Sludgy Bags of Chia Seeds Found on Central Oregon Coast

Published 12/24/20 at 5:35 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Mysterious, Sludgy Bags of Chia Seeds Found on Central Oregon Coast

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(Florence, Oregon) – They’re part of a fun novelty toy and they’re one of the latest fads in superfood diet items. Chia seeds are a growing industry in the U.S. However, they became a bit of an industrial mess on the central Oregon coast this week. (Above: the bags of sludge found at Sutton Beach near Florence. Courtesy OPRD)

Beachcombers around Florence and Newport discovered bags filled with an unusual gelatinous mass on the beach – a kind of sludge – on December 22, including Newport’s Nye Beach. Sometime later in the afternoon another individual discovered parts of an ocean-battered shipping container near Florence, along with two bags of chia seeds nearby.

Now, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) is in the middle of cleaning up the mess and suspects there could be more of the oddball debris along the Oregon coast.

OPRD said the seeds are not toxic but they do expand when water touches them. Sprouting chia seeds by getting them wet is actually one way consumers grow and then eat the plant.

OPRD ranger Jason Hennessey is one of those who dealt with the debris.

“The bags were too heavy to move by hand,” he said. “We had to cut them up to remove them, or use equipment to haul them out.”

OPRD said at least four bags have sprouted onshore at this time. State officials are attempting to track down information about the source of the bags, including what ship it might have originated from.

The agency said the public can help by reporting any of these bags found on the beaches – as well as other debris – at beach.debris@oregon.gov.

“For safety reasons, it’s best for individuals to avoid moving debris themselves,” OPRD said.

You can also help by volunteering to clean up beaches through solveoregon.org or surfrider.org.

“This situation is a good reminder to all to pack out your own trash,” OPRD said. “Some beach access parking lots have cleanup bags, but it’s good practice to carry some from home.”

The incident somewhat mirrors another unusual find on Pacific Northwest beaches back in 2013, when canisters of phosphine gas fumigant were washing up on the Washington coast. These were actually potentially dangerous, and Oregon’s CoastWatch sent out alerts that some could wash up on the Oregon coastline.

The canisters are metallic cylinders and about 10 inches tall. They’re used on some boats from the United States, but only under strict guidelines and with permits. Phosphine is used as a fumigant on ships that carry grain and some other products, and the canisters are considered highly toxic. Even empty canisters pose serious risk, as the residue of the gas can mix with water, expand, and then become extremely flammable and prone to exploding.

Luckily, none ever materialized on these shores.

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Below: more of Nye Beach and the areas north of Florence

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