Tar balls are washing up on Texas beaches again

Brief contact with beach tar is considered harmless for most people

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – You might find yourself in a sticky situation this summer at some Texas beaches because naturally occurring tar balls have started washing up along the Gulf Coast again.

“Tar ball events along the Texas coast are a common phenomenon, especially during the summer months, due to ocean currents and tidal influences,” Texas General Land Office (GLO) officials told KSAT on Wednesday.

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A tar ball is a clump or blob of petroleum that sometimes washes onshore after being carried by ocean currents. Tar balls may occur naturally due to oil seeps — there are more than 600 known seeps in the Gulf of Mexico — or they can also be associated with man-made sources such as oil spills.

GLO’s Oil Spill response officers responded to reports of tar balls washing up along the upper Texas coast and South Texas coastal zone this week and over the weekend.

“There have been no reported injuries, health hazards or impacts to wildlife,” officials said. “The Texas General Land Office Oil Spill Program has increased summer beach patrols coastwide and will be sampling beach tar to analyze and attempt to determine the tar’s origin.”

GLO Oil Spill staff monitors currents to help determine where tar may have originated and provides beach tar samples to Texas A&M College Station for analyses and tracking.

Beachgoers who encounter the tar balls are asked to call the state oil spill reporting hotline at 800-832-8224.

GLO officials said occasional brief contact with beach tar is harmless for most people.

Oil Spill response officers advise the public to wash with soap and water, baby oil or cleaning compounds such as skin-safe products sold at auto parts stores.

Oil-based products, specifically baby oil, are considered to be the best way to wash the tar off shoes, skin, etc.

“Don’t use gas, solvents, kerosene, diesel fuel or similar products that present a greater health hazard than the actual tar ball contact,” GLO officials advised.

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