CREDIT: AP Images
BP officially ended its efforts to clean up the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill in June 2013. But the company’s declaration that their work in the Gulf of Mexico was done hasn’t stopped oil from washing ashore. Since last June, some 44,600 tar balls and 2,555 pounds of oil have been removed from Florida’s beaches alone and some 4.6 million pounds of oiled material have been cleaned from Gulf Coast states.
And now, on the four-year anniversary of the day that oil from the 2010 spill first hit Florida’s beaches, another massive, 1,250-pound tar mat has been found. The mat was discovered Friday by a Department of Environmental Protection monitor who looks for leftover oil from the explosion. The mat was in the Gulf Islands National Seashore, off the beaches of Santa Rosa Island, near Fort Pickens, according to a report in the Pensacola News Journal.
If this story sounds familiar, it’s because a similarly massive tar mat was found in March just half a mile away. And last year, the Coast Guard discovered a 4,000-pound tar mat off the coast of Louisiana.
Clean-up crews led by the U.S. Coast Guard spent much of the weekend removing the mat, which lies about eight to ten feet offshore. This type of tar mat is made of weathered oil, sand, water and shells. The discovery of the tar is especially worrying at this time of year for nesting turtles and birds.
Seashore Superintendent Dan Brown told the Pensacola News Journal he’s not surprised the mat surfaced, given how frequently tar balls wash up along the stretch of the beach.
“This is one of those areas we knew had some problems, some buried oil, and it’s just not always visible,” Brown told the Journal. Brown said it was lucky that someone was monitoring that stretch of beach on that day, otherwise weather or water conditions might have continued to hide the tar. While BP still provides funding for the cleanup, they no longer conduct any beach surveys or cleanup patrols.
While all signs point to this oil originating from the Macondo well, which spewed 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf in 2010, it will take at least a week for lab tests to confirm the source.
Since April, underwater archaeologists have been surveying areas off of Fort Pickens and Johnson beach as part of a National Park Service effort to hunt down suspected tar mats farther offshore.
The United States Coast Guard has called BP’s claims of remediation premature, and the USCG has said that the cleanup effort is “not over by a long shot.”