Gulf cleanup patrols halted as reports of tar balls on beaches drop
GULF SHORES, Ala. — Finding tar balls linked to the BP oil spill isn't difficult on some Gulf Coast beaches, but the company and the government say it isn't common enough to keep sending out the crews that patrolled the sand for three years in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi.
Tourist John Henson of Atlanta disagrees, particularly after a walk in the surf last week and coming back with dark, sticky stains on his feet.
Henson said plenty of tar balls remain to be removed from the stretch of beach where he spent a few days, regardless of what any company or government agency might say.
“I was out there yesterday and stepped all in it,” he said.
Environmental advocates and casual visitors alike are questioning the Coast Guard decision to quit sending out BP-funded crews that have looked for oil deposits on northern Gulf Coast beaches on a regular basis since the 2010 spill spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico as a result of an explosion and fire that killed 11 workers.
The patrols ended this month as coastal monitoring reverted to the way it operated before the spill: The Coast Guard investigates beach pollution reported by the public through a federal system, the National Response Center and conducts cleanup operations as needed.
BP PLC, which has spent $14 billion on cleanup work, is still working with the government and says it will still pay for the removal of any lingering tar from its blown-out Deepwater Horizon well.
Cleaning crews will remain on duty in Louisiana, which was hit harder by the spill than other states because the well was so near its coast.
“Minute amounts” of oil are being reported on most beaches now as compared with three years ago.