Last updated: 12:19 PM ET, Sat May 30 2015

California Beaches Reopen After Oily Tar Ball Cleanup

Impacting Travel | Michael Isenbek | May 30, 2015

California Beaches Reopen After Oily Tar Ball Cleanup

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Tourists and locals gravitating toward a popular stretch of Santa Monica Bay had to conduct their sun worshipping and water activities elsewhere when a seven-mile stretch of the beach had to be shut down Wednesday due to mysterious oily tar balls, the Associated Press reported.

A span of shoreline from Manhattan to Redondo Beaches was shuttered for three days when the tar began washing up. During that time, a cleanup crew clad in gloves and white protective suits retrieved the tar clumps. They collected 40 cubic yards of the stuff, enough to fill three standard size trash trucks. A.J. Lester of the Los Angeles County Fire Department's Lifeguard Division told the AP that no more oil tar balls have appeared, but the U.S. Coast Guard will be conducting flyovers of the area and crews will be ready to go should it reappear.

The source of the tar balls remains unclear. Authorities told the AP that samples of tar and water will be scrutinized to identify where the material came from, but that could take at least several days.

According to the AP, nothing is being ruled out, and potential culprits located nearby are a refinery and offshore oil tanker terminal, as well as a major shipping channel. Seepage from natural oil deposits is also a possibility. Then there’s the oil spill that occurred 100 miles northwest along Santa Barbara County. Thousands of gallons of crude spilled into the ocean, closing two local beaches.

But it’s back to business for the beaches on Santa Monica Bay. Lester told the AP that County health officials gave the all-clear for the beaches to reopen Friday evening. "We feel like it's safe for the public to re-enter, so everyone can enjoy the weekend," he said. "All the contaminants that washed ashore were cleaned."

"You could have a sunset surf session if you wanted to right now," he added.

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