Coast Guard responds to reports of oil in Florida Keys

KEY WEST, Fla. — Coast Guard pollution investigators from Sector Key West are currently responding to reports of an oily substance and tar balls near Duck Key, Fla., Long Key, Fla., and Grassy Key, Fla.

Continued surveillance is part of the ongoing assessment effort to monitor the progress of the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill. While the Coast Guard aggressively responds to all reports of pollution, it will require sampling and testing to determine if any pollution is related to the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill. To date, none of the previous reports have been related. Click here to view the daily National Oceanic Atmospheric Association oil spill trajectory forecasts.

Coast Guard Sector Key West received multiple notifications from the National Response Center Tuesday of an oily substance and tar balls approximately four nautical miles south of Long Key, Fla.

A Coast Guard HU-25 Guardian aircraft from Coast Guard Air Station Miami conducted an aerial search and confirmed the presence of sheening in the vicinity of Duck Key, Fla., and deployed a self-locating data marker bouy (SLDMB) to determine the set and drift of the substance. Coast Guard Station Marathon launched a smallboat crew to collect samples of the substance and monitor the situation.

Analysis of the SLDMB on Wednesday morning indicated a potential for the sheen to land on Grassy Key Wednesday evening.

The Coast Guard is coordinating with the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key and Hawk’s Cay Resort in Duck Key to develop and deploy protective booming strategies as a protective measure to protect the dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center and those at the Florida Keys Dolphin Interaction feature at Hawk’s Key Resort.

Shoreline assessment teams from the Coast Guard and contracted shoreline cleanup crews were deployed to the shorelines of Long Key, Grassy Key, and Duck Key to confirm the presence of tar balls. The team recovered tar balls and identified one oiled vessel in a canal in Duck Key. No tar balls were found in Grassy Key or Long Key. Shoreline assessment teams continue to monitor the shorelines for more possible tar balls. If detected, contracted crews will conduct cleanup operations.

Samples of the oily substance and tar balls have been sent to the Coast Guard Marine Safety Laboratory in New London, Conn., to determine the origin and source of the oil. The results of those samples are pending.

The Coast Guard, working with NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuaries, Department of the Interior, and Monroe County Department of Emergency Management, has responded to 37 reports of tar balls in the Florida Keys and has sent representative samples of tar balls found in each location to the Marine Safety Laboratory for testing. None of those samples have been connected with the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill.

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.
The public is asked to report the sighting of any tar balls to the 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, which while not dangerous to most people can cause an allergic reaction and should only be retrieved by trained personnel.

For information about the response effort, visit

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