Coast Guard: Most TX tar balls not from spill

July 9, 2010 7:23:11 PM PDT
Coastal officials in Texas now say that new laboratory tests show most of the tar balls that washed up on Texas shores in the past few days are not from the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Further testing has revealed that only those tarballs found on McFaddin Beach in Jefferson County are a positive match with the Deepwater Horizon spill. Earlier reports inaccurately showed that the tarballs recovered on the Bolivar Peninsula and Galveston Island over the Fourth of July weekend were associated with the spill. However, more sophisticated testing at the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Marine Safety Lab in New London, Conn., later proved that the oil was not related.

Approximately 550 gallons of sand/oil mix were collected from McFaddin Beach on Monday. The tarballs and patties ranged from baseball sized to 5 by 5-foot mats and were confirmed as a positive match by both the BP contracted lab in Houma, La., as well as the USCG Marine Safety Lab.

To date, approximately 20 gallons of tarballs have been collected from the Bolivar Peninsula and Galveston Island, which also tested negative. More suspected oil product mixed with vegetation was reported and removed from Galveston Beach, High Island Beach and Crystal Beach Thursday evening and is awaiting analysis.

Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Richard Brahm says more testing will be done to try to find out where the tar balls came from. He says it may be from another leak or naturally occurring seepages from the seabed.

The Coast Guard, Texas General Land Office and the City of Galveston will continue patrols to find and clean up tarballs pending weather conditions. A command post has also been established. All Galveston beaches and Southeast Texas waterways remain open.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), for most people, an occasional brief contact with a small amount of oil will do no harm. However, some people are especially sensitive to chemicals, including the hydrocarbons found in crude oil and petroleum products. In general, NOAA recommends that if oil contact occurs, the area be washed with soap and water, baby oil or another safe cleaning compound.

The public can report an oil spill or tar ball sighting by calling the Texas General Land Office at 1-800-832-8224 or the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.

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


Load Comments