Oil, tar balls wash onto beaches

A three-mile-long ribbon of oil washed up on Moss Beach on Monday, along with gallons of oil and sticky tar balls on beaches from San Francisco to Pacifica.

Crews with the U.S. Coast Guard and the California Oil Spill Investigation Response team collected 30 gallons of fouled soil from Pacifica Beach and another 12 gallons from Rockaway Beach on Monday afternoon. Smaller amounts of oil and tar balls were found on Ocean, Montara and Carmel beaches, according to Coast Guard Petty Officer Michael Anderson.

The black, sticky oil was first reported to the Pacifica Public Works Department on Monday morning, according to Pacifica Police Capt. Dave Bertini. Investigators believe the debris was floating in the ocean and was churned onto the shore by recent storm activity, Anderson said.

“We anticipated this would happen, after the initial [Cosco Busan] oil spill,” said Beverly Thames, San Mateo County Office of Emergency Services spokeswoman.

Globs of oil can float in the ocean for months before being washed up by storms or high tides, according to Anderson.

Although initial reports suggested that some marine wildlife had come into contact with the oil, that turned out not to be the case, Thames said.

Local beaches were closed while cleanup took place, and should be back open this morning, Thames said.

Samples of the oil that washed up Monday will be sent to Sacramento, where investigators will analyze its contents and attempt to determine where it came from, according to Anderson. Results of those tests should be available today.

Those tests could reveal whether the oil is a remnant of the Nov. 7 Cosco Busan spill. Most of the 54,000 gallons of fuel spilled with when the ship hit a fender on a Bay Bridge tower sank, washed out to sea or evaporated, according to the Coast Guard. About one-third of it was recovered by volunteers and cleanup crews, according the Coast Guard.

Although oil and tar balls are thought to pose little risk to the public, beachgoers who find the substances should avoid touching it and should report it to the county Office of Emergency Services, Thames said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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