oil spill

More Tar Balls Washing Up at San Diego Beaches, Public Urged Not to Touch Them

The County's Health and Human Services Agency has issued a public health advisory, urging people to "exercise caution at local beaches and to avoid contact if tar balls are seen."

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"Nauseating."

"Sad."

Those are just some of the words being used to describe the scenery along our coast, as more tar balls wash ashore this weekend.

County public health officials are still awaiting tests to determine if the tar balls are related to the oil spill in Orange County or the result of natural seepage.

Mission Beach resident Leeann Eshenbaugh said it definitely doesn't seem natural.

"Never seen this before," Eshenbaugh said.

Eshenbaugh and her friend Bethany Lollis spent Saturday morning picking up tar in Mission Beach.

"This is a gallon-size bag and it is full of tar," said Eshenbaugh. "You can't smell it, but it's nauseating."

She said one piece was as big as her foot.

"It breaks our heart," Lollis said.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography has been working closely with the oil spill's Unified Command. Dr. Clarissa Anderson, Director of Scripps' Southern California Coastal Observing System said it is not unusual to see naturally occurring tar balls, which could be discovered more often while everyone is on heightened alert due to the oil spill. We won't know for certain until the analysis results come back.

Hear from Orange and San Diego County officials about the oil spill and its local impact.

The public can expect to see Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Teams at the following locations in San Diego County: Encinitas, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Carlsbad, San Onofre Beach, San Elijo State Beach, Shoreline adjacent to Batiquitos, and Aqua Hedionda.

These work crews are equipped in protective gear and will be monitoring, inspecting, and cleaning the beaches to ensure that appropriate cleanup action is being taken, officials said.

In the meantime, the County's Health and Human Services Agency has issued a public health advisory, urging people to "exercise caution at local beaches and to avoid contact if tar balls are seen."

Eshenbaugh and Lollis did their best not to touch the tar balls, and said they planned to wash their hands immediately, after handing the bag off to lifeguards to properly dispose of it.

If skin contact occurs, officials say to wash the area with soap and water or baby oil. Avoid using solvents, gasoline, kerosene, diesel fuel, or similar products on the skin. These products, when applied to the skin, present a greater health hazard than the tar ball itself.

To date, 5,544 total gallons of crude oil have been recovered by vessel and 13.5 barrels of tar balls were recovered Friday, officials said.

If you spot tar balls on the beach, you're asked to report it to the Unified Command by emailing tarballreports@wildlife.ca.gov.

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