Coast Guard responds to additional tar ball reports in Florida Keys Tuesday

KEY WEST, Fla. – Coast Guard pollution investigators from Sector Key West are currently responding to reports of tar balls found on the beaches in Big Pine Key, Fla., Loggerhead Key, Fla., and Smathers Beach in Key West, Fla.

Coast Guard Sector Key West received notification from the National Response Center at approximately 8 a.m. of tar balls on the beach in Big Pine Key, followed by a 9 a.m. report of tar balls on Loggerhead Key in the Dry Tortugas National Park. The report of tar balls on Smathers Beach came via telephone to watchstanders at Sector Key West at approximately 8:20 a.m. Tuesday.

The Coast Guard is currently working with the National Park Service and Florida Department of Environmental Protection to respond. Shoreside Assessment Teams from the Coast Guard are currently conducting assessments of the shorelines of Key West and Big Pine Key, and an aerial search by a Coast Guard helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Miami with a qualified pollution investigator aboard is ongoing.

Capt. Pat DeQuattro, commanding officer of Sector Key West, has authorized the use of the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to commence cleanups of any pollution. Samples will be taken of any tar balls collected and will be sent to the Coast Guard Oil Analysis Laboratory in Groton, Conn., to determine the origin of the source.

The public is asked to report the sighting of any tar balls to the U.S. Coast Guard at 1 (800) 424-8802. Any oiled shorelines can be reported to 1 (866) 448-5816.

The public is reminded that tar balls are a hazardous material and should only be retrieved by trained personnel. The beaches on the Florida Keys remain open at this time.

Photographs of the tar balls can be viewed on the Coast Guard News Facebook page.

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