Coast Guard responding to fuel sheen west of Clearwater

CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Coast Guard is responding to a possible fuel sheen approximately four miles west of Clearwater Beach, Fla., Thursday.

A Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater MH-60 helicopter crew spotted the sheen while on a routine training patrol at about 1:20 p.m. and reported it to the National Response Center.

The helicopter crew diverted their flight and picked up a Coast Guard marine science technician to observe the sheen and found several areas of light sheen, up to one mile long.

A Florida Department of Environmental Protection responder collected samples of the sheen from a Coast Guard Station Sand Key, Fla., 25-foot response boat. The sheen is believed to be a mixture of diesel fuel and or gasoline.

“This appears to be an illegal discharge of fuel,” said Capt. Tim Close, commander of Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg. “The sheen appears to be a refined oil product, rather than a crude or naturally occuring oil.”

The samples will be sent to the Coast Guard Marine Safety Laboratory in New London, Conn., where the they will be tested.

The oil does not appear to be related to the BP Deepwater Horizon spill.

The sheen is expected to dissipate naturally.

Any persons sighting pollution should contact the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.

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