Tar balls wash up at Matagorda Bay

July 7, 2010 4:00:47 PM PDT
The U.S. Coast Guard now says 18.5 gallons of oil have been recovered from Texas beaches so far, and it appears there's more work in store for cleanup crews in our area. It's the farthest west oil has been found. On Wednesday afternoon, at least a dozen tar balls were found in Sargent. They were small and weathered, and appeared to have been in the water for a long time and traveled quite a distance, but this could be proof that the oil is spreading farther across the Texas coast.

After watching the news for a few days about oil washing up on nearby beaches, Roy Tipps decided to walk down his own beach in Sargent. And he found what he feared.

"Sure enough, we found pieces here on our beach," Tipps said.

The Coast Guard showed up but didn't pick any up; they turned the tar balls over to the Texas General Land Office.

Craig Cook with the Texas General Land Office has been picking the things up from Bolivar working his way west.

"If it's soft or hard, it doesn't really tell you whether it came from that source or not. The only way to figure it out is if you actually send it out and get the analysis done," Cook said.

The tar balls are a lot darker and thicker than what Eyewitness News saw in Louisiana and Mississippi. As Cook said, that's not a sign of where they're from, though it is odd that we've had so many found in so many spots.

This is at least the fourth location where tar balls have washed ashore in Texas. Tar balls from the spill also have been confirmed in Bolivar and on Galveston Island.

In the last two days, they've shown up in Surfside and now Sargent.

The General Land Office hasn't seen any farther west but won't rule it out.

Tipps just assumes this is the first of many disturbing days down on his beach.

"There's millions of gallons out there ain't there?" he asked. "There's more to come."

The Matagorda County judge said the discovery of tar balls along the beach is very concerning development. He wants to make sure that the Coast Guard and Texas General Land Office are going to protect his estuaries, which means putting up some boom in places along the Matagorda coast line.

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