Tar Balls in Florida Not from Oil Spill, Claims Coast Guard

May 19, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal shows off a ball of tar-like substance said to be oil from the massive oil spill off the Louisiana coast during a press conference May 7, 2010 in Hopedale, Louisiana.  (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal shows off a ball of tar-like substance said to be oil from the massive oil spill off the Louisiana coast during a press conference May 7, 2010 in Hopedale, Louisiana. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Tar balls recently washed up on the Florida coast are alarming residents who fear the balls are linked to the BP oil spill nearby off the coast of Louisiana. The U.S. Coast Guard claims that the tar balls spotted last week are separate from the hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil spilling in the Gulf of Mexico since late last month.

Samples from the tar balls that floated to shore near the Florida Keys were sent to a laboratory in London, Connecticut for analysis by scientists linked to the Coast Guard. Scientists tested the tar balls along with oil from the BP oil spill and concluded that there was no connection. A press statement from the Florida Coast Guard is encouraging citizens not to be alarmed about oil approaching their beaches,  but also admitted that they have not found the source of the tar balls.

“The results of those tests conclusively show that the tar balls collected from Florida Keys beaches do not match the type of oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The source of the tar balls remains unknown at this time,” reads the Coast Guard statement from Tuesday.

No other sources have tested the tar balls to confirm the findings.

The District 7 Branch of the US Coast Guard collected the samples from beaches at the Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, Smathers Beach in Key West, Big Pine Key, and Loggerhead Key in the Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida. Officials feel the need to find the source of the tar balls has lessened and are making efforts to clean up the findings.

"The conclusion that these tar balls are not from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill incident in no way diminishes the need to continue to aggressively identify and clean up tar ball-contaminated areas in the Florida Keys," Capt. Pat DeQuattro of the U.S. Coast Guard in a recent statement.

The Florida Coast Guard received a call at 5:15 p.m Monday reporting that more than 20 tar balls washed ashore at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. The tar balls were measured at 3 to 8 inches in diameter.

"We will continue to operate as a Unified Command and utilize funding through the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund until we have successfully identified any additional tar balls on the shoreline and completed cleanup efforts," said DeQuattro.