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Popular beaches on Santa Monica Bay marred by rogue oil spill

State officials said samples of tar and water would be analyzed to identify where the material originated



MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif.—A 7-mile stretch of Southern California coastline where globs of oily goo washed ashore will remain closed until officials determine the water is safe for swimmers and surfers, authorities said.

The popular beaches on Santa Monica Bay will stay shut down indefinitely as crews collect the remaining tar balls and tar patties that began washing up May 27, U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Michael Anderson said.

Workers scooped up truckloads—about 30 cubic yards—of sandy goo along the shoreline from Manhattan Beach to Redondo Beach, and the mess seemed to have mostly dissipated by Friday.

Anderson estimated that about 90 per cent of the material had been removed.

Coast Guard and state officials said samples of tar and water would be analyzed to identify where the material originated, but it could take days to get the results.

There is a refinery and offshore oil tanker terminal nearby but the Coast Guard did not find a sheen from a possible spill after the tar started to accumulate. There is also a major shipping channel in the area.

Nothing has been ruled out, including last week’s oil spill that dumped thousands of gallons of crude along the Santa Barbara County coast about 100 miles to the northwest. Two beaches there remain closed.

The environmentalist group Heal The Bay worried that the Los Angeles-area shoreline might reopen too soon.

“From a human health perspective, exposure through skin contact is a concern,” the group said in a statement.

Someone dropped off an oil-covered loon at a wildlife centre in Manhattan Beach, but it’s not clear exactly where the bird or the oil came from, the Coast Guard said. No other wildlife issues have been reported. The loon is expected to recover and be released back into the wild.

Lifeguards chased a handful of surfers out of the water at Manhattan Beach, but beach life was otherwise normal for people exercising, playing volleyball, skating and riding bikes along the shore. Beachgoers are used to stepping in small tar balls from natural seafloor seepage, but the amount that came ashore this week was highly unusual.

Public health officials told people to avoid contact with the water, wet sand or any material that washed up in the area.

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