Coast Guard investigating report of tar balls on Makaha Beach, Oahu

The Coast Guard is investigating a report made July 29, 2015, by beachgoers of tar balls on the beach in Makaha on Oahu, Hawaii. Coast Guard Sector Honolulu incident management personnel walked the beaches and found tar balls up to an inch in size scattered along a 1,000-yard stretch of beach and took samples in an attempt to locate the source. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Coast Guard Sector Honolulu.)HONOLULU — Coast Guard members are continuing to investigate a report of scattered tar balls discovered on a 1,000-yard stretch of Makaha Beach, Friday.

Beachgoers contacted Coast Guard Sector Honolulu Wednesday evening to report tar balls washed ashore. The tar balls reportedly range in size up to 1-inch. Sector deployed personnel from their Incident Management Division to respond and assess the beach. They also notified partners at the State Department of Land and Natural Resources.

“The Coast Guard takes every report of oil in the water or in the form of tar balls very seriously as we work with our partners to keep the Hawaiian Islands pristine,” said Chief Petty Officer John Ng, from the Sector Honolulu Incident Management Division. “Coast Guard pollution investigators have taken samples of the tar balls and sent them to the Coast Guard Marine Safety Lab in New London, Connecticut, to be compared to samples on file in an attempt to identify the source of the oil.”

Tar balls are formed when an accumulation of oil is battered by wave action until it breaks apart in the form of small round clumps. Tar balls are generally not associated with fresh oil; rather, they are usually the result of oil that has been present in the water for some time. Some tar balls are the result of spills while others come from naturally occurring ocean seeps.

Anyone discovering tar balls or pollution is asked to immediately contact the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.

The Coast Guard and its partner agencies strongly urge the public not to attempt to clean up any pollution. If contact occurs, wash the area with soap and water, baby oil or a widely used, safe cleaning compound such as the cleaning paste sold at auto parts stores.

Avoid using solvents, kerosene, diesel fuel or similar products on the skin as these products, when applied to skin, present a greater health hazard than the oil may.

Mariners and residents are also reminded it is illegal to deliberately dump oil overboard or into storm drains. These activities pollute the ocean, are a direct violation of environmental laws including the Clean Water Act. Violators are subject to substantial civil and or criminal penalties including fines and imprisonment.

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