The Coast Guard Marine Safety Laboratory in New London, Connecticut analyzed a sampling of tar globs discovered on Florida Keys shoreline Tuesday and determined the collected samples are not from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Still the damage has been done.
The national media descended upon the marinas of Key West, showing unappealing images of hardened oil, then cutting to clear shots of the water near Louisiana, where the oil is evident in the ocean water.
“They have to stop doing this,” exclaimed business owner Donna Nelson. “A lot, about 50 percent of my business comes from tourists. This is going to hurt me. My husband. He’s a musician and at the hotels, that’s the first thing to go.”
Nelson who owns Imagination Station in the Publix shopping plaza has reason to be nervous.
Tuesday, a sampling of tar globs was discovered on beaches at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, Smathers Beach, Big Pine Key and Loggerhead Key. They were flown to New London, Connecticut for testing and analysis.
Though the tar globs do not match the oil from the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill, the source of the tar globs remains unknown.
“The conclusion that these tar globs 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,” Captain Pat DeQuattro of Coast Guard Sector Key West said. “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 globs on the shoreline and completed cleanup efforts.”
This week in Old City Hall, city manager Jim Scholl advised the mayor and commissioners the beaches are still open, the resorts are open and there aren’t any known health hazards shown from the oil spill.
“What we need to do is respond appropriately, and do not exaggerate the impacts,” said Scholl.
Mike Sole, the secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection notes that historically tar globs have washed ashore on a regular basis and are the result of dredging or construction projects.
“It is important to note,” Sole said, adding that in 2008 and 2009, there were 667 and 681 reports of oil and petroleum incidents along Florida’s waterways and beaches so these types of occurrences are not as unusual as one might think.”
Specifically in Monroe County, there were 53 incidents in 2008 and 72 in 2009.
In an attempt to offset the loss of revenue to businesses like Nelson’s, Tony Hayward, the CEP of BP is providing Florida with $25 million dollars for a national tourism advertising campaign.
According to the Key West Chamber of Commerce, because of the intense news coverage and a number of news stories prematurely and erroneously concluding the tar globs were from the Gulf oil spill, calls to cancel vacation reservations have increased.
Governor Crist says the money will be utilized to market to the nation that our beaches are clean, our fish are biting, and the Sunshine State is open for business.
According to Sole, this is the status of the spill:
BP has successfully inserted the Riser Insertion Tool that is recovering roughly 20 percent of the oil at this time. Also, there are good weather projections this week that will allow for more aggressive controls on site to include burning of oil on the surface, skimming, and use of dispersants. Finally, it is expected that early next week, BP will attempt to temporarily plug the leaking well with heavy mud, referred to as “Top Kill”, which should temporarily eliminate the discharge until they are able to permanently plug the well using the relief wells.
“Having said this, it is apparent that the leading edge of the plume either has, or is about to enter the loop current,” Sole said. “At this point, we continue to monitor the NOAA trajectories to ensure that Florida’s shoreline is protected.”
The latest observations from the NOAA indicate a small portion of the Transocean/BP spill oil slick has reached the Loop Current in the form of light to very light sheens.
In the time it would take for this oil to travel to the vicinity of the Florida Straits, it would be highly weathered and both the natural process of evaporation and application of dispersants would reduce the oil volume significantly.
NOAA says the oil may be caught in a clockwise eddy in the middle of the Gulf and not be carried to the Florida Straits at all.
Unfortunately, for Donna Nelson, the time it takes for the news to travel in this age of multi-media is much faster and much more damaging.
“This is not what we need. We will be keeping track of business lost due to this. We’re not even being affected right now.”
The public is reminded that tar globs are a hazardous material. This while not dangerous to most people, can cause an allergic reaction and should only be retrieved by trained personnel. The public is asked to report the sighting of any tar globs to the U.S. Coast Guard at (800) 424-8802. Any oiled shorelines can be reported to (866) 448-5816.