Tar balls force beach closure in Hancock Co.

Published 2:41 pm Thursday, July 8, 2010

More oil encroachment Wednesday forced state officials to close parts of the beach in Hancock County.

“It’s a lot of tar balls, a lot of small ones on the beach in Waveland, Bay St. Louis and unincorporated areas near the Silver Slipper casino,” said Brian Adam, director of Hancock County Emergency Management.

In addition, nearly 69 miles of shoreline in Harrison and Jackson counties had been touched by oil as of Wednesday, according to the Joint Information Command in Mobile, Ala.

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The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, state Department of Environmental Quality and the state Department of Health issued the beach closure extending from Nicholson Avenue to the Silver Slipper in Hancock County and Bay St. Louis.

Officials said dense coverage of tar balls and tar patties made beach access difficult.

Cleanup is expected to take two to three days, they said in a news release.

There were 310 workers and two beach cleaning machines cleaning oil in Harrison County, a representative at the Mobile operation said. On Tuesday, 89 workers and two machines collected 8,000 pounds of oil sand at Buccaneer State Park in Hancock County.

Also Tuesday, an area of sheen that contained small amounts of tar patties and some emulsified oil was spotted near Ship Island, state officials said, and tar balls and emulsified oil were located near Horn Island.

Officials said beach advisories remained in effect in parts of Harrison County. MDEQ and the Beach Monitoring Task Force recommend that people avoid contact with oil-related materials such as tar balls and tar mats and stay out of the water if these materials are visible.