SLAUGHTER BEACH (DE): More than 11 miles of Delaware Coastline has now been affected by Monday’s oil spill that washed up along Delaware’s coastline from Slaughter Beach to south of the Indian River Inlet, officials now say.
The spill, which originally washed ashore at Broadkill Beach Monday, was located by The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and is estimated to be about 215 gallons or approximately five barrels of an unknown oil.
The spill had been carried out into the Delaware Bay by Monday night’s high tide and had dispersed elsewhere on the coast by noon Tuesday.
DNREC and the U.S. Coast Guard deployed environmental contractors in the Broadkill area Tuesday morning to clean up as much oil as possible before another tide was expected to carry more oil out into the bay.
More cleanup workers from Coast Guard contractors as well as mobilized DNREC staff were expected on the coast throughout the day.
On Monday, DNREC Emergency Response reported that there were no reported or sighted impacts to wildlife, and also noted the vast numbers of shorebirds and horseshoe crabs that flock to the Bay coast each summer had departed on their annual migration elsewhere. However, by Tuesday, Tri State Bird Rescue from Newark was called in to assist with fowls and other wildlife that was being affected by the spill.
In a news release earlier this week, officials said that the organization rescued 24 fowls that were incapacitated. It is unknown how many birds or wildlife the non profit organization has rescued to date.
Delaware Newsline reached out to Tri State Bird Rescue, but as of the publishing of this story, we have not received a response back from the organization.
While the source of the oil spill was still unknown, DNREC provided samples of the oil to the U.S. Coast Guard on Tuesday to be analyzed for a “petroleum fingerprint” that might determine where it came from. The oil was described by DNREC Emergency Response as a “heavy fuel oil” likely leaking from an operating vessel, not crude oil from the hold of a tanker.
At a Thursday press conference, U.S. Coast Guard incident commander, Frederick Pugh stated that the samples have already been sent to a U.S. Coast Guard lab for testing.
On Friday, the cleanup operation intensified with additional resources deployed by state and federal agencies and non-profit organizations for the clean up of the spill that has deposited blobs of oil called tar balls and oiled debris along the coast.
More than 125 environmental professionals from DNREC, the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), the Coast Guard and its environmental contractor, and the Delaware Bay and River Cooperative engaged in removing oil found littering beaches and rafting around debris offshore.
The Delaware Bay and River Cooperative, a non-profit funded by industry in the event of an oil spill, dispatched an oil skimming vessel to remove oily debris seen Thursday afloat in the Bay.
Tri-State Bird Rescue of Newark continued to play a key role in the cleanup coalition, investigating reports of wildlife impacted by oil and treating captured sea gulls and other wildlife that has been oiled in the water.
“We continue to mobilize our expert resources as the tides spread oil from the beaches back into the water and back on the beach,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin. “We are combing the beaches and, shovel by shovel, removing the tar balls and contaminated sand.”
The crews are manually removing oil patties and tar balls which are being found on various locations along the coast. Approximately 21 tons of oily sand and debris, filling 1 ½ dumpsters, was removed from the affected areas as of 7 p.m. Thursday.
“We are grateful for our interagency collaboration with DelDOT and for the help from the Delaware Bay and River Cooperative enabling us take the cleanup onto the water,” Secretary Garvin said.
The city of Lewes closed its beaches temporarily on Thursday due to oil that had come ashore and posed a threat to people and pets alike who visit them. DNREC closed the 4-wheel drive surf fishing crossing at Delaware Beach Plum Island Preserve, overseen by Delaware State Parks, so cleanup operations will not be hampered by vehicles tracking oil onto the sand.
Delaware Newsline reached out to Governor John Carney’s office for comment but his office have not responded to our email request.
While the oil spill cleanup continues, the Coast Guard and DNREC strongly advise the public not to handle any oily product found or attempt to assist affected wildlife along the shore, but to report these findings to DNREC’s environmental hotline at 800-662-8802 so the situations can be addressed by hazmat-trained professionals.
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