Officials: Galveston tar balls are from Gulf oil spill

Container of tar balls found over the weekend on Galveston County beaches.

July 6, 2010 3:04:27 PM PDT
Officials confirmed Monday that tar balls discovered over the weekend on the Galveston coastline are in fact from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Beachgoers in Galveston County spotted the tar balls washing ashore this weekend. The first discovery was found Saturday in the surf at Crystal Beach on the Bolivar Peninsula. The second discovery on Sunday on East Beach came about when the beach patrol got a call that a dog was covered in something. It turned out to be seaweed, but while there they found nickel and dime size tar balls.

Tar balls are not uncommon on Galveston and Bolivar beaches, but authorities tested them to determine their origin. Tests linked the ping-pong size tar balls at Crystal Beach to the Deepwater Horizon.

"We found tar balls in the surf, not on the beach, and the largest one was the size of a ping-pong ball," said Capt. Marcus Woodring, US Coast Guard Sector Commander Houston-Galveston. "They came back positive as a match to the Deepwater Horizon event."

Testing on the East Beach discovery is not complete.

While it is still unclear how the tar balls got here, the Coast Guard says the fact that the tar balls were lightly weathered leads them to believe they may have been transported by a ship.

The Coast Guard hired a contractor to remove the tar balls on Sunday and Monday. Crews estimate that of the 35 gallons of material recovered, there were about 7 gallons of tar balls contained within the waste material.

Capt. Woodring said that no more tar balls have been sighted Monday.

He said a command post has been established where a team is on standby and there are increased beach patrols.

Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski called the incidents alarming, but said there is no bacteria, nor ill effects in the water.

"If there is more oil, it will be picked up," said Mayor Jaworski.

He added that the seafood in Galveson is also fine.

The City of Galveston released a statement saying in part, "There is a less than 1 percent coverage of small tar balls on the beach and oil spill response contractors are removing them quickly. All island beaches are open."

Texas Governor Rick Perry responded to the potential impact on the state.

"I want to assure Texans that we are taking aggressive steps to address this situation and to mitigate any effects to our beaches," Gov. Perry said. "The state of Texas and the General Land Office are continuing to work closely with the Coast Guard to ensure we use all available resources and take the necessary measures to protect the Texas coastline."

If you come into contact with oil or a tar ball, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recommends that the area be washed with soap and water, baby oil or another safe cleaning compound.

To report an oil spill or tar ball sighting, call the Texas General Land Office at 800-832-8224 or the National Response Center at 800-424-8802.

Stay with Eyewitness News and abc13.com for the latest on this story.


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