Mysterious Tar Balls Return, Shutting Down Long Beach

Tar balls in France (AFP / Getty)
AFP / Getty

Mysterious tar balls have been appearing on Southern California beaches, and the phenomenon seems to be hitting individual beaches one after the other. The latest hit: Long Beach.

The blobs of oil began appearing on the Long Beach coastline Wednesday, shutting down some four miles of beach.



Members of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) have been cleaning and collecting samples of the material, according to the Los Angeles Times. The samples will aid in determining the source of the substance.

One potential source noted in previous occurrences of tar blobs on California beaches was the Santa Barbara oil spill that occurred May 19.

Naturally occurring ocean floor oil seepage does occur annually around this time of year, and could also be the source of the tar balls.

Beaches from San Diego to Del Mar to Carlsbad saw tar ball occurrences around May 12. An expert told 10 News that earth movement on the ocean floor can release oil deposits that make their way to the ocean surface and eventually the seashore.

Tar balls appeared on miles of South Bay beach beginning May 27. USCG announced reopening of the area to the public May 30 after significant cleanup efforts. Laboratory analysis of the tar balls was still pending at that time–and according to the Times report, the analysis could take weeks.

“While many observers might think that this unfortunate incident is directly related to the recent oil spill in Santa Barbara, it is simply too early to tell where the oil came from. It is unknown if the oil is from natural seepage or from an oil spill from a local refinery or pipeline located nearby,” Heal the Bay stated.

Public health officials continue to caution beachgoers about the potential risks of exposure to the material.

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana


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