More than two months after the tragic BP oil spill on the Gulf Coast, tar balls have been found on the beaches of Galveston, Texas, resulting in Texas being the fifth Gulf state to be affected by the worst oil spill in history.
The amount of oil found on Texas beaches is far less in comparison to what has been discovered in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, keeping Galveston Mayor, Joe Jaworski, in optimistic spirits considering the circumstances.
Quoted from The Trentonian newspaper published Tuesday, Jaworski said, “This is good news. The water looks good. We're cautiously optimistic this is an anomaly.”
Five gallons of tar balls were found Saturday on the Bolivar Peninsula, northeast of Galveston. Two gallons were found Sunday on the Peninsula, as well as Galveston Island. Tests have yet to confirm the origin of the crude oil.
Although specifics as to why crude oil reached the Texas beaches are unknown, there are a few theories. Monica Allen, a spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association quoted in The Trentonian article, “NOAA scientists are looking at local weather, Hurricane Alex and Gulf vessels as possible sources for the tar balls.”
Marcus Woodring, Coast Guard commander for the Houston/Galveston sector, was quoted in an ABC News article by Juan A. Lozano Monday. “The consistency of the tar balls indicates it's possible they could have been spread to Texas water by ships that have worked out in the spill. But there's no way to confirm the way they got there,” said Woodring.
Lozano quoted a Coast Guard official in his article saying, “A Coast Guard official said on Monday that it was possible that the oil hitched a ride on a ship and was not carried naturally by currents to the barrier islands of the eastern Texas coast, but there was no way to know for sure.”
Hurricane Alex came through the Gulf last week and is thought to have some part in the reasoning behind the tar balls reaching Texas shores. Hans Graber, a marine physicist at the University of Miami and co-director of the Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing commented on the subject.
“Hurricane Alex, which blew through the Gulf last week and made landfall along the border between Texas and Mexico, may have played a small role in bringing the oil ashore in Texas by increasing the westerly current near land,” Graber said. “But it was more likely due to normal coastal currents and local weather patterns.”
According to the NOAA, the arrival of crude oil in Texas was expected. An analysis conducted Friday suspected a 40% chance of oil showing up on the Lone Star State’s beaches. Tar balls were found on Galveston beaches Saturday, just one day after the NOAA analysis’ prediction. Spectators claimed the tar balls found Saturday were about “the size of ping pong balls” and Sunday’s discoveries resembled the sizes to be “more like nickels and dimes.”
Since the catastrophic affects of the BP oil spill continue to contaminate Gulf Coast waters, BP is expected to claim responsibility for the damages. Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said in response to the oil found in Galveston, “Any Texas shores impacted by the Deepwater spill will be cleaned up quickly and BP will be picking up the tab.”
Jerry Biggs, a commercial fisherman from Miss., who recently had to shut down as a result of the spill, have decided to do what they can to help. Biggs is now hiring out his 13 boats and crew of 40 to BP to aide in the cleanup process. "This isn't going away. This isn't a sneeze or a hiccup. This is diarrhea for a long time," said Biggs.
Since the findings of tar balls on the Texas coastline Saturday, the distance between the recent tar discoveries and most eastern reports of oil in Florida is about a 550 miles span. Oil was first spotted from the BP oil spill at the mouth of the Mississippi River on April 29.
Although last week's storms and Hurricane Alex have delayed the cleanup process in certain areas, BP assures that the weather conditions have not affected drilling work on the company's relief well, said to be the best chance for plugging the gigantic leak. BP expects the drilling for the well to be finished by mid-August.
Photos: rledorf and futureatlas.com/Flickr