tar from spill turns up in texas Bolivar Peninsula beach sees 1st signs of Deepwater disaster
Oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill was reported on a Texas beach for the first time as stormy weather Monday plagued new cleanup plans in the Gulf of Mexico.
The weather prevented skimming operations for the eighth consecutive day off the coasts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Along the Louisiana coast, a storm system made landfall Monday afternoon, bringing thunderstorms and grounding skimmers operating close to shore.
In Texas, officials confirmed Monday that they found a small number of tar balls on Galveston Island and nearby Bolivar Peninsula. The ones on Bolivar were tested and found to be from the Deepwater Horizon spill; the ones on Galveston are being tested.
“I think all together they filled up a couple of buckets full of them,” said Jim Suydam, a spokesman for the Texas General Land Office. “We think we’ll be able to contain any impact from Deepwater to tar ball pickup on the beach.”
The amount discovered is tiny compared with what has coated beaches so far in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. It still provoked the quick dispatch of cleaning crews.
“Any Texas shores impacted by the Deepwater spill will be cleaned up quickly, and BP will be picking up the tab,” Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said in a statement.
About 5 gallons of tar balls were found Saturday on Bolivar Peninsula, northeast of Galveston, said Capt. Marcus Woodring, the Coast Guard commander for the Houston/ Galveston sector. Two gallons were found Sunday on the peninsula and Galveston Island, though tests have not yet confirmed their origin.
The largest tar balls found Saturday were the size of pingpong balls; the ones Sunday were more like nickels and dimes.
Woodring said the consistency of the tar balls indicates they could have been spread to Texas waters by ships that have worked out in the spill.
Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski said he believed the tar balls were a fluke, rather than a sign of what’s to come.
More rough seas are likely later this week, with a tropical system churning east of the Yucatán Peninsula that might head north and strike eastern Texas and western Louisiana late Wednesday, according to AccuWeather.com.
“This region is an open highway for the system to ride more to the north, rather than to the west, like Alex did recently,” AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski wrote Monday.
The spill, gushing as much as 60,000 barrels of oil per day, is about 50 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Sosnowski said that the tropical system is likely to become at least a tropical storm and has the possibility of creating squalls that could disrupt the oil containment and cleanup efforts.
High seas over the weekend also hampered the 48-hour test run of the so-called super skimmer, a retrofitted 1,100foot tanker called A Whale, which officials hope will be able to suck up 300,000 barrels of oil every 10 hours.
The storms have not affected drilling work on a relief well that BP says is the best chance for finally plugging the leak. The company still expects drilling on that to be finished by mid-August.
Jerry Biggs, a commercial fisherman in Pass Christian, Miss., who has had to shut down because of the spill, is now hiring out his 13 boats and 40-person crew to BP for cleanup. He said the skimming operation is severely hampered by the weather.
“We don’t even have the equipment to do the job right,” Biggs said.
From Louisiana, where skimming resumed after a three-day halt last week, to Florida, there are about 44,500 people, nearly 6,600 boats and 113 aircraft enlisted in the cleanup and containment effort, according to BP.
Biggs said the hurricane season will further hurt the cleanup effort, adding that one big storm could push the oil everywhere.
“This isn’t going away. This isn’t a sneeze or a hiccup. This is diarrhea for a long time,” he said. “My lifestyle is screwed. It’s over. The thing that I love the most, I’m not going to be able to do anymore.”
Costs rising for BP
BP’s costs for the spill climbed nearly half a billion dollars in the past week, raising the oil giant’s tab to $3.12 billion, up from $2.65 billion a week earlier. The figure does not include a $20 billion fund for Gulf damages BP created last month.
BP, seeking cash to meet the costs, is considering selling fields in Colombia, Venezuela and Vietnam, a person with knowledge of the matter said. BP may also dispose of its 60 percent holding in Pan American Energy, Argentina’s second-largest oil producer, the person said, declining to be identified because the information is confidential.
BP pledged to raise $10 billion through assets sales in the next 12 months to pay the costs of compensating victims of the spill.