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A sticky situation: Tar balls wash up on nearby beaches

Posted at 1:56 PM, May 07, 2019


The Padre Island National Seashore has a reputation for having some beautiful beaches, but there is currently a stain on that reputation. If you don’t watch where you step, you could find yourself in a sticky situation.

That’s because natural tar balls are washing up by the hundreds. They began washing up over the weekend on beaches at Padre Island National Seashore and Mustang Island State Park.

They’re black and sticky. Some are about the size of a quarter, meanwhile, others are about the size of one’s hand.

William “Buzz” Botts, a seashore expert and education coordinator for PINS, says it’s not an uncommon site around this time of year and is likely natural seepage from underground oil wells.

“We actually get a fair amount of seepage each year from the ocean floor, where it just seeps out naturally,” said Botts.

These clumps of tar washed up in small quantities, however, Botts says if the tar had washed up in larger concentrations, that would indicate they were from an oil spill.

But not to worry, these tar balls are not considered hazardous. Over time they will be buried in the sand, while the others will wash back into the Gulf.

PINS crews cleaned the area near the Malaquite Visitor’s Center. If you do happen to step on a tar ball, use baby oil to rub it off, then wash the area with soap and water.