Tar Balls on Texas Beaches – Not so Mysterious

ABC News reports that mysterious tar balls have been washing up on Texas beaches.  Just how often do these folks go to the beach?  In Red’s experience tar balls at the Texas coast are not that unusual.

We don’t have a source for the oil,” Jim Suydam, a spokesman for the Texas General Land Office, told ABC News today, noting that samples of the substance have been sent to the U.S. Coast Guard for analysis. So far, their only conclusion is that it is a “crude oil product” that came from “two different sources.”

“It is unlikely the source is from Texas waters, but possible sources include offshore rigs, a pipeline, a ship, or from natural seepage,” Suydam told ABC News in a statement.

Tar balls are dense accumulations of hydrocarbons that have been mixed and rolled with sand and shells before washing ashore. The source could be natural leaks along the continental shelf, which runs 40 to 100 miles off the Texas shoreline, or the result of frequent spills that occur when crude oil is transported from one tanker to another in the Gulf of Mexico before being brought into port.

If the investigation proves the oil came from man-made sources, it will come as no surprise to Luke Metzer, director of Environment Texas, an environmental advocacy group based out of Austin.

“Oil spills are a way of life here in Texas,” Metzer said, noting that 543 spills occurred in 2012, according to the Texas General Land Office.

“It all adds up to have a big toll on the marine life in the Gulf,” he said.

Metzer argued that Texas should establish “no-take” Marine Protected Areas, which prohibit fishing, oil drilling, and other extractive uses.

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