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Visitor reports sticky, tar-like substance on new beach

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Montserrat Zuckerman, visiting Anna Maria Island from Massachusetts, says she walked through a sticky, tar-like substance Dec. 23 near the beach renourishment project at 63rd Avenue in Holmes Beach. Islander Photos: Rick Catlin

Beachgoers in Holmes Beach on Dec. 25 share the shoreline with Great Lakes Dredge and Dock’s equipment from about 60th Street to 79th Street in Holmes Beach. Work was halted for Christmas.

If there’s an oil spill along Anna Maria Island beaches near where the beach renourishment equipment is, experts and engineers with Great Lakes Dredge and Dock can’t find it.

But Montserrat Zuckerman, a visitor from Massachusetts, said she was walking on the beach near 63rd Avenue in Holmes Beach Dec. 23 when she observed a “sticky substance like tar” on her feet.

Zuckerman said she was near the pumping station for the beach renourishment project and the water being piped from offshore to the beach looked “dirty.”

“I thought the tar could be from the pumping,” she said.

Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources director Charlie Hunsicker, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers public relations director Laurel Reichold said they investigated Zuckerman’s report, but could not substantiate any oily substance on the beach.

Reichold said workers for Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, the company contracted for beach renourishment, could find no evidence of an oil spill in the waters or along the beach.

Hunsicker said, “Visual inspections we have made in the area of construction activity have not turned up anything on a scale or magnitude that could be attributed to the dredging.”

Zuckerman said she returned to the beach Dec. 24, but found no other evidence of oil or tar on the beach. “I just know what it looked like when I first saw it,” she said. “I’m glad to hear nothing serious was found,” she added.

Reichold said Great Lakes was averaging about 1,000 feet of sand per day spread on the beach and was working 24/7 to complete the renourishment within 60 days from its start date of Dec. 21.

Great Lakes is working north from 60th Street, spreading sand to the 79th Street beach access in Holmes Beach, then will work south toward Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach.

Reichold said as the project moves south, renourishment equipment and the pumping station also will be moved and beach access locations that were previously blocked by equipment would be restored.

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