As more Japanese tsunami debris continues to wash ashore near Long Beach, local officials are getting worried about how they should react.
"This isn't a crime, this is more of a PR nightmare," said Pat Matlock, chief criminal deputy with the Pacific County Sheriff's office. "But people call us because they don't know who else to call. ... And it's not like we have radiation wands to check if something is safe or not."
Andi Day, executive director at the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau, said more pieces of foam continue washing ashore. Styrofoam in particular needs to be picked up quickly to keep it from breaking into smaller pieces, which birds and fish can swallow. Beach cleanup groups are organized for normal trash, not a big wave of tsunami debris, she said.
"It's been increasing every day," Day said Wednesday. "It's really becoming daunting."
Wednesday, the sheriff's office issued a press release about part of a wooden dock and other debris found near the Cranberry Beach access, north Long Beach. A woman walking the beach Tuesday night reported seeing the dock, a television, a refrigerator and a large part of an airplane.
Matlock was glad police were notified because the dock could be a safety hazard for people driving on the beach. Still, Matlock wasn't sure Wednesday afternoon who at the state would remove the items.
State Department of Ecology officials don't consider the dock — more of a piece of wood debris than an actual dock — to be tsunami debris, but the other items found at Cranberry Beach could be. The "dock" is much smaller than the one that washed ashore in Oregon and could be regular ocean debris, said Linda Kent, an Ecology spokeswoman.
State park rangers also found a big piece of carbon fiber but don't think it was part of plane. They've found other pieces in the past few months, Kent said. The carbon fiber, part of a TV and other items have been cleaned up by park rangers. Woody debris generally is left on the beach.
Anyone who finds suspected tsunami debris should email the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — firstname.lastname@example.org — with a location, description and picture if available. Officials will work with the Japanese consulate to track owners of any personal items.
"We realize people are going to take things off the beach, and that's fine, but if it looks like a personal item we do ask that people be respectful," said Curt Hart with Ecology.
Anyone who finds potentially hazardous material should leave it alone and call 1-800-OILS-911.