Refrigerator found on Washington beach may be tsunami debris

MOCLIPS, Wash. -- Charlie Coburn is always searching for something on the beach near Moclips, from sand dollars to bald eagles -- but this was a first for him.

“Charlie was running out, he was the first one there, and I said, ‘What is it?’ And he said, ‘It’s a  refrigerator’ and I thought he was kidding,” said Charlie’s mom, Shani Wood.

But this was no joke; it was a refrigerator -- beached, empty and rusted. And it appeared to have made a long trip.

Charlie’s father, Jay Coburn, said, “It’s definitely been in the water for some time, you can tell by all the barnacles.”

Jay Coburn believes it’s part of the debris from the Japanese tsunami hitting the shores of Washington state. He’s already found plenty of other evidence.

“There’s lots of Styrofoam,” Jay Coburn said, “lots of bottles, and I found a big chunk of a buoy and that had Japanese writing on it.”

Local residents are concerned about the living things clinging to some of the debris.

“It has mussels we’ve never seen, really weird-looking mussels,” neighbor Mike Patrick said of the beached refrigerator.

“If there’s food or anything on the beach, the seagulls and birds will eat it; they won’t even touch them things,” Patrick said. “They’ve been on there for as long as we’ve seen them and they won’t even touch them.”

Scientists say they may be tiny, but mussels may also be a threat – an invasive species that could take hold in U.S. waters.

A Japanese dock the size of a boxcar recently washed ashore on the Oregon coast; it also carried strange-looking mussels, crab, and algae. State officials bagged them up and buried them to keep them from spreading.

Coburn said it’s one more reason for him and Charlie to keep a close eye on what washes ashore.

County officials are still trying to figure out who is responsible for cleaning the tsunami debris up.

If anyone find anything, they are urged to call the state’s invasive species council.  Click here to go to that site.

Meanwhile, Gov. Christine Gregoire’s office announced the governor and members of her Cabinet will meet in Ocean Shores, Wash., Monday to discuss what state action should be taken regarding the tsunami debris.

She will join Maj. Gen. Timothy Lowenberg, Department of Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant, and Department of Health Secretary Mary Selecky in Ocean Shores to discuss the problem.

Following a press conference, state Department of Health staff will demonstrate how they use Geiger counters to test debris for any radioactive contamination.