Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tar balls found along Key West shores

Fear broadened across Florida on Tuesday as black tar balls and oily residue were reported in several areas in the Keys.

At the same time, scientists confirmed tendrils of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill were caught in the gulf loop current and would reach Florida's Keys as early as this weekend.

The discoveries deepened confusion over a situation that is stoking debate among researchers, politicians and environmentalists. While volunteers are organizing efforts to begin cleanup of a huge oil spill, experts are cautioning against panic.

Several marine experts were wary of linking the spill with tar balls in the Keys.

"I would be very surprised if this was oil from the spill," said Mitch Roffer, president of Roffer's Ocean Fishing Forecasting Service in West Melbourne, which tracks the spill several times a day.

He said if the tar balls are related to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, it would mean the surface oil traveled hundreds of miles south undetected by scientists, satellites and computer models.

Tar balls have been a nuisance on Florida shores forever, said Ted Van Vleet, University of South Florida chemical oceanography professor.

Tar balls can form from larger oil spills. Wind and waves mix a slick, breaking it into smaller patches. The chemical composition changes, but the ball retains some toxic properties, he said.

Tar balls also can form from oil seeping naturally from seabeds. They can be moved around the gulf by tides and currents.

Any of those also could be behind additional reports of tar balls that came in later Tuesday, from Pensacola, Vero Beach and St. Pete Beach.

Samples of those tar balls and the ones that washed ashore in the Keys were sent by the U.S. Coast Guard to a lab in Connecticut. Test results could be ready by today.

The tar balls at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, found by rangers Sunday and reported Monday, are about 3 to 8 inches in diameter. More reports came in at Big Pine Key, Loggerhead Key and Smathers Beach on Tuesday morning.

The Coast Guard said beachgoers should not be alarmed if they see a few tar balls, but asked the public to report any sightings. The clumps are generally easy to avoid and wash off.

Scientists said that when oil from the spill reaches South Florida it is likely to show up in greater abundance.

Katie Sanders can be reached at (727) 893-8804.

Anyone who sees a tar ball is asked to call the Coast Guard toll-free at 1-800-424-8802. Oiled shorelines can be reported toll-free as well, to 1-866-448-5816.

See a tar ball?

Anyone who sees a tar ball is asked to call the Coast Guard toll-free at 1-800-424-8802. Oiled shorelines can be reported toll-free as well, to 1-866-448-5816.

See a tar ball?

Anyone who sees a tar ball is asked to call the Coast Guard toll-free at 1-800-424-8802. Oiled shorelines can be reported toll-free as well, to 1-866-448-5816.

Tar balls found along Key West shores 05/18/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 18, 2010 10:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. James Wilder Jr. back at running back...in Canada

    Blogs

    Remember when former Plant High star and Florida State running back James Wilder Jr. announced he was switching to linebacker?

    That was short-lived, apparently.

  2. Unlicensed contractor accused of faking death triggers policy change at Pinellas construction licensing board

    Local Government

    The unlicensed contractor accused of faking his death to avoid angry homeowners has triggered an immediate change in policy at the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board.

    Last year Glenn and Judith Holland said they paid a contractor thousands of dollars to renovate their future retirement home in Seminole. But when they tried to move in on Dec. 14, they said the home was in shambles and uninhabitable. They sent a text message to contractor Marc Anthony Perez at 12:36 p.m. looking for answers. Fourteen minutes later, they got back this text: "This is Marc's daughter, dad passed away on the 7th of December in a car accident. Sorry." Turns out Perez was still alive. Now the Hollands are suing him in Pinellas-Pasco circuit court. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  3. What you need to know for Tuesday, June 27

    News

    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    Former St. Petersburg mayor and current mayoral candidate Rick Baker, left, and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman square off tonight in a debate. [Times]
  4. Once 'angry' about Obamacare, Republican David Jolly came to see it as 'safety net'

    Blogs

    Former Congressman David Jolly, who ran against Obamacare in 2013, said in an interview Monday night that he now considers it a "safety net."

  5. Five children hospitalized after chlorine release at Tampa pool store

    Accidents

    Five children were sickened at a pool store north of Tampa on Monday after a cloud of chlorine was released, according to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.