Tests confirm East Beach, Bolivar tar balls are from BP

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by Tiffany Craig / 11 News

khou.com

Posted on July 5, 2010 at 3:02 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 6 at 6:22 PM

GALVESTON— The Coast Guard confirmed Tuesday that tar balls found on Galveston’s East Beach also came from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Coast Guard crews collected more gooey gunk from Sunny Beach, just west of the Seawall, Tuesday morning. Tests will be performed to determine if those tar balls also came from the Deepwater Horizon. They found no sign of tar balls during an earlier search of Stewart Beach.

The Texas General Land Office confirmed Monday that 3 gallons of tar balls found along the shores of Crystal Beach on Bolivar Peninsula are from the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The consistency of all the tar balls found in Texas indicates the oil might have hitched a ride on a ship that worked out in the spill instead of being carried naturally by currents. But there is no way to know for sure, Coast Guard officials said.

"The weathering of the oil was not consistent with oil that had made the trip of nearly 400 miles," said Admiral Thad Allen, U.S. Coast Guard. "We are looking at five different vessels that might have been on the source scene and that might have been the way the oil traveled. However we are not ruling out any circumstances."

The largest tar balls found Saturday were the size of pingpong balls, while the ones Sunday were more like nickels and dimes. Larger pieces of tar have been turned over to the Coast Guard, but they are most likely from the road -- not the oil rig.

Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski said he is cautiously optimistic this is not a sign of things to come, but he is concerned about the impact if tar balls make their way into the area’s wetlands and estuaries.

"You can trot up and down the beach in equipment and pick it up, no harm, no foul, as long as you pick it all up," Jaworski said. "But once that oil gets in the estuaries and the wetlands, I don’t know if it’s just as simple as picking it up."

Rick and Zana Mathes, who drove to the Texas coast from Louisiana, weren't thrilled to learn the tar balls had followed them.

"It’s sad that it’s happening but still we want to come to the beach,” Rick said.

The Coast Guard now has a Texas incident command center which is fielding reports of oil and dispatching crews to find it.

By Tuesday, the cost of cleaning up Texas beaches was at $40,000 and expected to keep climbing.

BP has promised to foot the bill.

Send your Galveston tar ball photos to khou.com.

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