Mysterious Oil Spill in Delaware

On a beach tides washed ashore debris from an oil spill.

Courtesy of Creative Commons

On a beach tides washed ashore debris from an oil spill.

Saige Figgs, Staff Writer

Environmental officials and members of the U.S. Coast Guard are racing to clean up an oil spill that began coming ashore on Oct. 19. According to Delaware Now, when the spill was first discovered, it was an estimated 215 gallons of oil from an unknown source, covering only three-fourths of a mile along Broadkill Beach, Del..

Over the course of three days, the tides spread oil along seven miles of the Delaware Bay coastline and continued along the coast, impacting Beach Plum Island, the Roosevelt Inlet and Lewes, as well as parts of the Maryland coastline.

The Town of Ocean City worked closely with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to monitor a recent oil spill in Del.. In Ocean City, the Emergency Management and Public Works personnel closely monitored the beach. With currents running in the southerly direction, some tar-balls have been viewed washing ashore in Ocean City.

Rick Meehan, the Ocean City Mayor stated, “You know we are all working together, they have put together teams that are going to the different areas, with DNREC in Delaware, of course MDE in Maryland and they are out there doing the cleanup as they go along.”

The debris has caused the towns of Lewes, Dewey Beach and Bethany Beach to close their beaches until further notice. Beachgoers elsewhere, including Ocean City, were encouraged to stay out of the water and avoid walking along the wrack line, where oily debris is deposited by each high tide.

On Nov. 3,  clean-up crews under the U.S. Coast Guard, the Maryland Department of the Environment  and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources (DNREC), officially concluded the clean-up at Slaughter Beach in Delaware after two weeks of a rather intense clean-up effort on area beaches.

The crews cleared approximately 75 tons of oily debris and tar balls from beaches from just south of the Indian River Inlet through Cape Henlopen State Park, Bethany, South Bethany, Fenwick Island, Ocean City and Assateague Island State Park.

The cleanup of oil and debris from beaches resulting from a spill late last month is likely “largely complete,” Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Shawn Garvin said. While optimistic about the cleanup results, Garvin also stated, “I would like to emphasize that people may continue to see small bits of oil or oily debris coming ashore here and there.”

The source of the spill is still unknown. The Coast Guard has sent samples of the oil to be analyzed by its Marine Safety Laboratory for a “petroleum fingerprint” that might help determine the source of the spill. If a source is identified, the responsible party would be required to reimburse the federal government for the cleanup operation. The Delaware Audubon Society has offered a $2,000 reward for information about the source of the spill.