A swim in the waters off Galveston turned into a U.S. Coast Guard investigation.
Swimmers reported getting out of the water covered in oil. Officials are now testing the substance to see if it is oil from the massive BP oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico.
So far, most tar balls found in the Galveston area have tested negative as far as their connection to the Deepwater Horizon oil well. Tar balls found on Crystal and East beaches over the Fourth of July weekend did not come from BP as originally thought.
The only oil positively linked to BP in the Galveston area washed up at McFaddin Beach.
According to the Galveston Island Beach Patrol, everybody's a little on edge. Anything brown that washes up is automatically tagged as tar... even if it's not.
"Most of the stuff people have been reporting to us has either been dissolved seaweed or the sort of bottom scum. The Coast Guard calls it bottom sludge," said Chief Peter Davis, Galveston Island Beach Patrol.
Thursday night, swimmers said they were coated in oil and beachgoers saw what they believed to be oil on Galveston Beach near 52nd street.
"The big seaweed that came in was just coated in it," said Eileen Haley, a tourist.
"It came a lot on the plants. It was just all matted into the plants," said Karen Guerrero, a tourist.
The Coast Guard is taking all reports seriously. Thursday's alleged oil on Galveston Beach is still being tested to determine if its oil and whether it's from BP.
"There are a lot of natural oil seeps in the Gulf of Mexico so it's not unusual, especially during this time of the year when you have the winds coming in from the south, to have some tar balls wash up on shore," said Lionel Bryant, Coast Guard spokesman.
So far, only a handful of tar balls have washed up on Galveston and the Bolivar Peninsula. Very little of it has been positively linked to BP.
"I think at this point we're up to 20 milk jugs full or tar balls over the last five to seven days on 32 miles of clean beach. We're picking these things up as we find them and there's just not that much of it," said Galveston Mayor Joel Jaworski.
Meanwhile, many have yet to spot tar and aren't letting the thought taint a trip to the beach.
"We were going to do the tourist thing anyway; bicycle riding, the strand, things like that. We would have come down anyway," said Arlie Telschow, a tourist.
The Coast Guard said very little of what has washed up in the Galveston area so far actually belongs to BP. Right now officials are working to determine if the BP oil arrived stuck to the hull of a boat or if the Gulf currents are slowing bringing the oil slick west.
More Reported Tar Balls in Galveston
A swim in the waters off Galveston turned into a U.S. Coast Guard investigation. Swimmers reported getting out of the water covered in oil. Officials are now testing the substance to see if it is oil from the massive BP oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico.
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