Tar balls on Florida beaches for possibly yearsby Dara Kam | May 7th, 2010
Tar balls could be washing up on Florida’s beaches for years, Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Sole told reporters on a conference call today.
But that’s not so bad, Sole said, because the gooey blobs are easier to clean up than the viscous crude oil now pumping out of the Deepwater Horizon rig off Louisiana’s coastline.
The oil sheen is about 60 miles South of the state’s now-pristine Panhandle beaches and is not expected to reach Florida’s coast until Tuesday, Sole said.
What kind of damage the state will suffer depends on how quickly BP officials cap the oil spewing into the Gulf, now at about 5,000 gallons per day.
Over time, waves and the content of the ocean will shrink the oil slick by up to 60 percent and harden it into tar balls, Sole, a biologist, said.
“That’s a good thing,” he said.
Florida might escape significant impacts of the spill but because of the voluminous amount of oil flowing out of the leak – more than 200,000 gallons per day since the April 20 blast – “we may see tar balls over months and years to come,” Sole said.
“But a lot of that depends on how effective they are at capping the discharge.”
BP is erecting a concrete box around the leak and is battling the slick with fire, dispersants and skimmers.
“However, at 5,000 barrels a day, unless they eliminate that, my fear is we will see greater impact than just tar balls,” Sole said.