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Date of Issue: May 20, 2010

Manatee clear, tar balls at Key West

Manatee County’s shoreline remains clear of evidence of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but the U.S. Coast Guard responded late Monday to a report of 20 tar balls found on the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West.

The tar balls ranged in size from about 3 to 8 inches in diameter.

NASA images of the plume from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill originating off the coast of Louisiana had scientists concerned that the oil would reach the powerful Loop Current in the Gulf and be pulled down to the keys and north along the Atlantic coast.

Samples of the tar balls were collected and will be shipped to a laboratory for analysis to determine the origin of the source.

Park rangers on Monday conducted a shoreline survey of Fort Zachary Taylor and the adjacent U.S. Navy beach and recovered the tar balls at a rate of nearly three tar balls an hour, with the heaviest concentration found at high tide.

Coast Guard pollution investigators from Sector Key West completed a subsequent shoreline survey of the area, and no additional tar balls were found.

The Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration planned to conduct shoreline surveys beginning this morning, as well as an aerial search.

A Coast Guard release cautioned that tar balls are hazardous materials and should only be collected by trained personnel.

As Florida’s coastline residents remain on watch, the Coast Guard asked people to report any signs of oil to 800-424-8802.