Los Angeles County Fire Department

Source of Southern CA Beach “Tar Patties” Remains a Mystery

Beaches along at least 6.5 miles of Los Angeles County coastline are closed as authorities attempt to identify the substance

Cleanup along a stretch of Southern California coastline is expected to take at least five days after a mysterious tar-like goo forced the closure of several South Bay beaches.

Updated Article: Beaches Remain Closed

Manhattan, Hermosa and Redondo beaches remained closed Thursday after the patties of petroleum -- ranging from the size of golf balls to football -- began washing ashore Wednesday along a six-mile stretch of coastline. Hazardous material teams collected samples overnight, but authorities said at a Thursday news conference that the source and nature of the substance has not been determined.

"We are continuing to analyze the beaches and trying to determine the source of the tar balls and tar patties," said Commander Charlene Downey, of the U.S. Coast Guard. "We've made significant progress on the shoreline, and that's where the bulk of the tar balls have been found."

No new tar balls washed ashore Thursday, officials said.

Downey was asked at a Thursday morning news conference whether the substance might be related to an oil spill last week off the coast of Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County. She said it's too early to tell whether there's a connection.

"It could be anything," said Downey. "It could be naturally occurring, we just can't tell right now what might be the source.

"I can't tell you right now what specifically that product is. Those analysis and tests take time."

Results might take days or weeks, she added.

They will be analyzing samples to see if they can pinpoint whether the globs been processed by a company or naturally occurred. The waste is also being collected so the cost of the clean up can be calculated, and if anyone is found responsible they will be billed.

At least 6.5 miles of Los Angeles County coastline from the El Segundo Jetty to Redondo Beach was closed for the round-the-clock cleanup. Despite warnings and posted signs, some surfers entered the water Thursday morning.

"We ask that the public not go into the water," said Chris Linkletter, of the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Division. "The source has been undetermined, they're still testing what's washed up."

The beaches are expected to reopen Friday morning.

The cleanup is expected to continue for five to seven days, according to the Mahattan Beach Police Department. The length of the beach closures will be determined by tests for bacterial contamination in the water, according to the department.

Environmental group Heal the Bay has sent scientists to monitor the cleanup.

"It's very disturbing to see such a large swath of beach covered during the summer high beach going time for an oil incident," the organization's vice president Sarah Sikich said.

Locals said small tar balls that occur naturally are seen in the area from time to time, though they are not usually so plentiful.

There has been no impact to area wildlife, said Sal Garcia, of the California Depart of Fish and Wildlife. People who find distressed animals should leave the animal alone and call 877-823-6926.

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