Harrison County Cleans Up Tar Balls Found on Barrier Islands

Reported by: Nick Patrick
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Updated: 3/24/2014 6:54 pm
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill left a deep and lasting impression on the Gulf Coast. The impact of that spill is still being felt in Mississippi. Residue from the spill was discovered in the Mississippi Sound last week. An incident that set the fishing and tourism industry ablaze in 2010 resurfaced last week when tar balls from the BP oil spill were uncovered on the Barrier Islands, causing a swift response from several agencies, including the Coast Guard. Natalie Murphy of the U.S. Coast Guard says, "I sent pollution investigators out to investigate the islands and confirm that it was oil or oil product.” The Coast Guard reported removing more than 700 pounds of tar balls from Ship and Horn Islands last week. The tar balls or pieces of weathered oil matched the oil from the BP disaster that crushed Coast industries, especially the Coast's strongest economic engine: tourism.

Michael Moore, the owner and operator of the Biloxi Shrimping Trip, says, "Anybody in the tourism business got directly affected 100% and it’s sad what happened, but as we all keep working together to make things better, we're seeing a positive side right now." Moore makes several excursions into the waters of the Gulf every day. He says he hopes this latest discovery on the islands is an isolated one and that tourists won’t be deterred from seeing what the Gulf Coast has to offer. Moore also says, "Right now, the tourism industry, our charter boats, we need positive news. We need people going out and catching fish and need tourists to come catch fish with these fishermen and of course we need people going shrimping with us." Officials with the Coast Guard say while tar balls are not harmful to people, the substance is toxic to animals.

Murphy also says, "We want to limit the amount of impact that we have to that wildlife we have out there while still removing the pollution from the environment and we were successfully able to do that last week." The Coast Guard did visit Horn Island again Monday to investigate reports of more tar balls, but they did not find enough pollutants to require more clean up. If you think you see some pollution, you are encouraged to call the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.

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