Oily substances and tar balls found in the Middle Keys this week are NOT connected to the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill, Monroe County Emergency Management and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary said Thursday afternoon.
Citing the U.S. Coast Guard as their source, Sanctuary Superintendent Sean Morton and Emergency Management Director Irene Toner “confirmed the Coast Guard’s earlier reports that tar balls and sheen in a canal on Duck Key were not from the Gulf oil spill,” they said in a statement released Thursday.
Coast Guard pollution investigators from Sector Key West had responded to reports of an “oily substance and tar balls” near Duck Key, Long Key and Grassy Key. Samples of the oily substance and tar balls were sent to the Coast Guard Marine Safety Laboratory in New London, Conn., to determine the origin and source of the oil.
A crew from Station Marathon recovered tar balls and identified one oiled vessel in a canal on Duck Key. A Coast Guard HU-25 Guardian aircraft from Air Station Miami conducted an aerial search and confirmed the “presence of sheening in the vicinity of Duck Key and deployed a self-locating data marker bouy (SLDMB) to determine the set and drift of the substance.”
No tar balls were found on Grassy Key or Long Key.
As a proactive measure, the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key and Florida Keys Dolphin Interaction at Hawks Cay Resort on Duck Key put oil containment booms around their lagoons with the help of the Coast Guard.
Shoreline assessment teams continue monitoring the shorelines for more possible tar balls. If detected, contracted crews will conduct cleanup operations.
In the past month, there have been 37 reports of tar balls in the Florida Keys, from Islamorada down to the Dry Tortugas. Samples found in each location were sent to the Marine Safety Laboratory for testing. None of those samples have been connected with the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill.