Tar balls, oil-related material found after Hurricane Isaac along coastal Louisiana beaches



Posted on September 5, 2012 at 6:18 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 5 at 6:22 PM

Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
Email: mrodriguez@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mrodriguezwwl

GRAND ISLE, La.-- Taking a break from Hurricane Isaac clean-up, Keith Bergeron left his Grand Isle home for a walk on the beach. Along the way, though, he found a needed storm clean-up of a different kind.

"I started noticing a bunch of tar balls on the beach," he said.

The discovery of the tar balls on Grand Isle, and a tar mat on nearby Elmer's Island, comes after Hurricane Isaac battered the area with strong winds and high surf. The last time people there saw tar balls was after another storm: Tropical Storm Lee in 2011.

"This kind of puts to rest any suspicions as to whether there is oil out there," said Jefferson Parish Council Member Chris Roberts. "We're certainly going to hold whoever is responsible for getting that picked up."

The tar balls and mat were found in an area heavily impacted by the 2010 BP oil spill.

In a statement to Eyewitness News, a BP spokesperson said it was anticipated that some residual oil from the Macondo well would be exposed by Hurricane Isaac. However, they also said they were awaiting test results of the oil material, to determine its origin.

"It is important to note that there have been 90 reports of oil releases from other sources since the storm, and it is imperative that the parties responsible for that oil act in the same manner as BP and respond quickly in following Coast Guard directions," said Ray Melick, Director of Communications for the Gulf Coast Restoration Organization/BP America.

On Wednesday, the state issued an emergency closure of waters one mile out from the shoreline, from Caminada Pass, west to Belle Pass. That means no commercial fishing is allowed there.

"It has crossed a threshold that raises significant concerns for the fisheries managers," said Garret Graves, chairman of the Louisiana's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

Back on Grand Isle, seafood processor Dean Blanchard said he is already facing $150,000 dollars in damage from Hurricane Isaac. The tar balls, he said, are one more hit.

"It's been a grave concern of mine," Blanchard said. "Many sleepless nights. We're in trouble."

Keith Bergeron feels the same way-- he makes a living as a charter boat fishing captain.

"We can overcome a hurricane, but to deal with all this on top of us is really hurting us," he said.
Until crews are able to clean-up the beaches, state officials are warning people to stay away from the tar balls or other oil-related materials that have washed onshore since Hurricane Isaac.