A cleanup operation was underway Thursday on a four-mile stretch of coastline in Long Beach that was closed Wednesday after tar balls washed ashore.
About 55 gallons of the substance were collected by 4 a.m., and samples will be tested to determine the source. It is unknown whether the globs were naturally occurring or due to a leak of some kind.
It was not clear Thursday afternoon when test results on those samples might be available. Long Beach's fire chief described the tar globs found this week as "considerably larger" than the usual pieces found on Southern California's beaches.
"In Southern California, the naturally occuring tar-type substance, the little pieces are fairly common," said Long Beach Fire Chief Mike DuRee. "This piece here is a considerably different consistency, considerably larger. This is what's causing us the conecern."
Site surveys conducted at oil and gas operation in the city revealed no problems, DuRee said.
"There were not leaks to be found, everything is normal there," he said.
The shoreline closure extended from 1st Place to 72nd Place, the Long Beach Fire Department said. It was unclear how long the closure would remain in effect as authorities continue to collect samples.
"The beach remains closed for an undetermined amount of time," said Jake Heflin of the Long Beach Fire Department.
The primary health concern involves contact with skin, which can cause an uncomfortable rash, according to health officials.
Wildlife has also been affected, with a California brown pelican found saturated in tar taken by animal control for care and treatment.
Beach users said they could not believe the area had been closed.
Sophia Davenport was hoping to take her young daughter Bella for her first day out at the seaside.
"I just showed up, there's... hazmat people, cops, fire department. It's ridiculous. I've never seen it before," Davenport said.
The closure comes a day after large globs of tar washed ashore Zuma Beach. Globs also washed ashore the coast in Ventura, and large amounts of similar globs caused an 11-mile stretch of beaches to close on the southern part of Santa Monica Bay.
Tests were underway to determine if that oil was related to the spill of about 21,000 gallons of crude oil from a pipeline at Refugio Beach, 10 miles west of Santa Barbara, on May 19. Federal regulators determined this week that the pipeline was corroded.