Tarball clean-up effort intensifies as oil skimmer is pressed into service

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Tarballs found in bay and tip of Atlantic Ocean; 21 tons of contaminated sand removed

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and U.S. Coast Guard continued to spearhead a cleanup operation for the oil spill that left blobs of oil called tarballs and oil-soaked debris this week over a stretch of Delaware coastline extending from the upper Delaware Bay to the tip of the Atlantic Ocean.

The origin of the tarballs has not been determined, although the source is not believed to be an oil tanker.

The cleanup operation intensified this morning with additional resources deployed by state and federal agencies and non-profit organizations.

More than 125 environmental professionals from DNREC, the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), the Coast Guard and its environmental contractor, and the Delaware Bay and River Cooperative are removing oil found littering beaches and gathering ebris offshore.

The Delaware Bay and River Cooperative, a non-profit funded by industry in the event of an oil spill, dispatched an oil skimming vessel to remove oily debris spotted Thursday. Tri-State Bird Rescue of Newark continued to play a key role in the cleanup coalition, investigating reports of wildlife impacted by oil and treating captured seagulls and other wildlife that has been oiled in the water.

“We continue to mobilize our expert resources as the tides spread oil from the beaches back into the water and back on the beach,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin. “We are combing the beaches and, shovel by shovel, removing the tarballs and contaminated sand.”

The crews are manually removing oil patties and tarballs are being found on various locations along the coast. Approximately 21 tons of oily sand and debris, filling 1 ½ dumpsters, was removed from the affected areas as of 7 p.m. Thursday.

“We are grateful for our interagency collaboration with DelDOT and for the help from the Delaware Bay and River Cooperative enabling us take the cleanup onto the water,” Secretary Garvin said.

The city of Lewes Thursday closed its beaches temporarily due to oil that had come ashore. DNREC closed the 4-wheel drive surf fishing crossing at Delaware Beach Plum Island Preserve, overseen by Delaware State Parks, so cleanup operations will not be hampered by vehicles tracking oil onto the sand.

While the oil spill cleanup continues, the Coast Guard and DNREC strongly advise the public not to handle any oily product found or attempt to assist affected wildlife along the shore. Citizens can report their findings toDNREC’s environmental hotline at 800-662-8802 so removal and cleaning can be done by hazmat-trained professionals.

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