Tar Balls Wash Gulf Coast Shores From Heavy Surf Near Panhandle

Heavy surf from Tropical Storm Lee has washed tar balls along the Gulf Coast shores near the Florida Panhandle as Orange Beach workers begin to clean up the BP oil spill.

BP workers are cleaning up tar balls that are washing up along the Gulf Coast shores near Orange Beach caused by heavy surf and rain from Tropical Storm Lee.

The tar balls are suspected to be from the BP Deep Water Horizon oil spill. Both the company and Orange Beach officials said it would be days before tests determined whether the slick is from last year’s rig disaster. However, company contractors were removing the pollution anyway.

Grant Brown, a spokesman for the city of Gulf Shores, said residents have feared more oil remains on the sandy floor despite months of cleaning.

“It’s more proof that there still are offshore tar mats and it’s washing ashore … And it’s going to continue it looks like, coming to shore,” Brown said.

Brandon Franklin, the coastal claims manager for the city of Gulf Shores, said officials are collecting samples that will be sent to Auburn University for testing. Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon said most of the tar balls were very small. They are visible in the area and are about the size of a marble to nearly the size of a baseball.

BP spokesman Justin Saia said teams were evaluating the condition of Gulf beaches following the storm. “As these teams report results of their assessments over the coming days, response teams will be mobilized as necessary to respond to these affected areas,” he said.

The oil spill caused extensive damage to marine and wildlife habitats and to the Gulf’s fishing and tourism industries along the coast.