Tar Balls Hitting Florida’s Beaches
Tar balls washed ashore on Pensacola-area beaches in Florida on Friday morning.
BP is sending 11 cleanup crews to the beaches, said Bob West, Pensacola Beach public safety director .
West said there is no advisory keeping people out of the water, and that the bigger dangers throughout the weekend are the surf and riptides.
People were advised not to pick up the tar balls and to let the cleanup crews do that work. Two people wearing latex gloves and carrying a large plastic bag began collecting tar balls shortly before 11 a.m., but they refused to say if they were from BP or from the Unified Command, which was also sending in cleanup crews. Some of the oil globs are as large as hubcaps.
Shirley Colita, 56, a lifelong Pensacola resident, recalled an oil spill in Texas in 1979.
"This is worse," she said of the impact on the beach. "The response has been poor. They've just been sitting on the haunches."
The day began with Sam Champion of ABC's "Good Morning America" pointing out about a half dozen small, reddish balls of oil shortly after 7 a.m.
Champion, a scuba diver, said he had seen similar balls of oil in the Gulf water on Thursday. He is broadcasting near the shore behind the Hampton Inn.
"This morning I thought we'd do a live shot saying the beaches are beautiful," Champion said during a break. "We wound up telling folks we saw tar balls. It was heart-breaking."
Champion said an official with the Environmental Protection Agency told him the balls were likely "weathered" oil, parts of crude oil that gets broken up as it mixes with water.
There are tar balls on Navarre Beach in Santa Rosa County, but they are not the solidified masses found on Pensacola Beach.
Beach staff have reported thumbnail-sized orange balls mixed with seaweed and algae in the wrack line, county spokeswoman Joy Tsubooka said.
"This is the line of debris that rests on the beach at the highest reach of the surging waves," she said.