Tar balls wash up on beach in Texas
TEXAS CITY, Texas – Tar balls from the Gulf oil spill found on a Texas beach were the first evidence that gushing crude from the Deepwater Horizon well has reached all the Gulf states.
A Coast Guard official said on Monday that it was possible that the oil hitched a ride on a ship and was not carried naturally by currents to the barrier islands of the eastern Texas coast, but there was no way to know for sure.
The amount discovered is tiny compared to what has coated beaches so far in the hardest-hit parts of the Gulf Coast in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. It still provoked the quick dispatch of cleaning crews and a vow that BP will pay for the trouble.
“Any Texas shores impacted by the Deepwater spill will be cleaned up quickly and BP will be picking up the tab,” Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said in a news release.
“It was just a matter of time that some of the oil would find its way to Texas,” said Hans Graber, a marine physicist at the University of Miami and co-director of the Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing.
The distance between the western reach of the tar balls in Texas and the most eastern reports of oil in Florida is about 550 miles. Oil was first spotted on land near the mouth of the Mississippi River on April 29.
The spill is reaching deeper into Louisiana. Strings of oil were seen Monday in the Rigolets, one of two waterways that connect the Gulf with Lake Pontchartrain, the large lake north of New Orleans.
“So far it’s scattered stuff showing up, mostly tar balls,” said Louisiana Office of Fisheries Assistant Secretary Randy Pausina. “It will pull out with the tide, and then show back up.”
Pausina said he expected the oil to clear the passes and move directly into the lake, taking a backdoor route to New Orleans.
The news of the spill’s reach comes at a time that most of the offshore skimming operations in the Gulf have been halted by choppy seas and high winds. A tropical system that had been lingering off Louisiana flared up Monday afternoon, bringing heavy rain and winds.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said there had been a 60 percent chance the system could blow into a tropical storm. But that was reduced later Monday to almost no chance because the storm had moved over land.