Ocean City beaches see impact from Delaware spill that left 65 tons of oil debris in water

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Ocean City officials are warning beachgoers about the potential impact from a recent oil spill in Delaware. Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard

Ocean City officials are warning beachgoers about the potential impact of a recent oil spill in Delaware.

Tar balls, a gravellike substance, have been washing ashore and are expected to continue to do so over the next couple of days, according to a Monday news release from the town, as currents continue to move south.


The debris has caused the towns of Lewes, Dewey Beach and Bethany Beach to close their beaches until further notice. Beachgoers elsewhere, including Ocean City, are encouraged to stay out of the water and avoid walking along the wrack line, where oily debris is deposited by each high tide.

Town officials are working with the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Emergency Management and Public Works departments to monitor the spill and any impact on the beaches. Officials said they are also working with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, who are working to clean the spill and collect and dispose of the oil.


“We’re not sure how long oily debris will continue to wash up with the tide,” DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin said in a Coast Guard release Wednesday. “Unfortunately, oil can be very persistent in the marine environment, but our environmental professionals are persistent too."

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A little over a week ago oil patties started washing ashore on Broadkill Beach in Delaware and started to migrate to other beaches in the area. The Coast Guard said it recovered about 65 tons of oil debris as of Sunday — enough to fill four construction dumpsters — from the spill. The cause of the spill is still unknown, the Coast Guard said.

Officials believe the oily material that has been spreading along the coast is from the same spill and is just being broken into smaller pieces because of the waves and tide.

Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research of Newark is helping treat wildlife that have been oiled in the water, the Coast Guard said. So far, 66 oiled birds have been found.

Small globs of oil and oily debris were found scattered from Slaughter Beach to the north side of the Indian River Inlet over the weekend.

An information advisory was issued for Slaughter Beach, Fowler Beach, Prime Hook Beach, Broadkill Beach, Lewes, Cape Henlopen State Park, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach and the Indian River Inlet.

Beachgoers should be advised of the possibility of tar balls on the beach and use caution. If you see anything out on the beach that resembles oil or a tar-ball, please report it to the Maryland Department of Environment at (866) 633-4686.