UPDATE: Tar Balls Cleared; Beaches in Long Beach Still Closed

File photo. 

UPDATE  |  The wash up of tar balls throughout beaches in Long Beach, which resulted in the injury of at least one bird, seemed to have temporarily ended Thursday afternoon, according to Long Beach Fire Department (LBFD) officials.

The petroleum-based products, which have taken the shape of balls or patties in a variety of sizes—from a dime to half a softball—have been cleared from the beaches by a contracted agency as of about 1:00PM Thursday, Long Beach Environmental Health Bureau Manager Nelson Kerr said.

Ocean Blue recovered about 55 gallons of the product between 4:00PM Wednesday, June 3, to 4:00AM Thursday, June 4, LBFD spokesman Jake Heflin said.

A California Brown Pelican was reported to have been saturated by the product, according to Heflin. It was transported to the city’s Animal Care Services to be treated.

There was also a report of a sea lion in the federal breakwater that was impacted, but officials were not able to detain the animal for evaluation, so officials could not determine if exposure had actually occurred, Heflin said.

The beach will continue to remain closed from First Place to 72nd Place, from the lifeguard towers to the water, as city and fire officials continue to monitor water levels and see if remnants are left in the beach, said Heflin.

According to officials, the products were discovered Wednesday at about 7:00AM.

The U.S. Coast Guard is testing the product to determine if the dark-colored pieces of oil are either from natural seepage or petroleum product spills, Kerr said.

On May 19 about 21,000 gallons of oil spilled into the ocean off Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County.

PREVIOUSLY: Discovery of Tar Balls Forces Closure of Beaches in Long Beach

6/4/15 10:13AM| The discovery of petroleum-based balls scattered throughout a four-mile stretch of the Long Beach coastline has led the Long Beach Fire Department (LBFD) and city to order the closure of city beaches, authorities announced Wednesday night.

About 55 gallons of petroleum-based product were recovered from the beach and transported offsite for appropriate disposal, Heflin said.

Area beaches from First Place to 72nd Place will be closed while cleanup operations are underway by local agencies, such as Ocean Blue, and volunteers with the Long Beach Community Emergency Response Team.

“Throughout the day, various amounts of 'tar balls' have washed up on shore and have created a public and environmental concern,” LBFD spokesman Jake Heflin said in a statement.

According to Heflin, U.S. Coast Guard officials were on the scene Wednesday, collecting samples of the product for testing.

It is unclear how long it will take to receive the results, Heflin said. 

Officials will determine if the appearance of the tar balls may be connected to the May 19 oil spill in Santa Barbara where about 100,000 gallons of crude oil spilled, with 21,000 gallons making its way into the Pacific Ocean.

There are no indications that the incident is related to any Long Beach Gas and Oil Department operations, according to officials.

Recently, South Bay area beaches were closed for a few days after tar balls washed ashore.

City residents are advised to keep off local beaches due to the possibility of unsafe conditions. Contact to with oil tars may cause skin irritation and long-term health effects, officials stated.

The beaches will be closed until further notice.

Officials ask that all reports of oil debris be directed to the National Response Center Hotline at 1.800.424.8802.

This story will be updated as we receive more information. 

This story was updated on Thursday, June 4, 2015 at 11:00AM with regard to the amount of petroleum-based product recovered, clean-up efforts and beach closures. 

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