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Cleanup Operation for Tar Balls and Oiled Debris Continues along Delaware Coastline

A person contracted by the Broadkill 2020 oil response pilots an unmanned aerial system in Milford, Delaware, to assist with a pollution identification, Oct. 22, 2020. The drone uses a polarized long-wave infrared sensor which helps identify oil based products. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Isaac Cross.) A member of a contracted oil spill response organization cleans oily debris from Slaughter Beach in Delaware as part of the Broadkill 2020 oil spill response. The Coast Guard and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control are working together to identify areas where tar balls and oily debris are making landfall to facilitate an effective clean up.(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Isaac Cross.)


MILFORD, Del.(October 23, 2020)- — The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and U.S. Coast Guard continue to spearhead a cleanup operation for tar balls and oiled debris that washed ashore this week over a stretch of Delaware coastline.

The cleanup operation intensified this morning with additional resources deployed by state and federal agencies and non-profit organizations to effected areas extending from the upper Delaware Bay to the tip of the Atlantic Ocean.


More than 125 environmental professionals from DNREC, the Delaware Department of Transportation, the Coast Guard and its environmental contractor, and the Delaware Bay and River Cooperative are engaged in removing oil found littering beaches and rafting around debris offshore. The Delaware River and Bay Cooperative, a non-profit funded by industry in the event of an oil spill in the river or bay, dispatched an oil skimming vessel to remove oily debris seen Thursday afloat in the bay. Tri-State Bird Rescue of Newark continued to play a key role in the cleanup coalition, investigating reports of wildlife impacted by oil and treating captured seagulls and other wildlife that has been oiled in the water.


“We continue to mobilize our expert resources as the tides spread oil from the beaches back into the water and back on the beach,” said Shawn Garvin, DNREC Secretary. “We are combing the beaches and, shovel by shovel, removing the tarballs and contaminated sand.”

Additional personnel has been resourced as oil patties and tar balls have washed up in various locations along the coast, placing greater geographic demands on available cleanup coverage.


Approximately 21 tons of oily sand and debris, filling one and a half dumpsters, were removed from the affected areas as of 7 p.m. Thursday.


“We are grateful for our interagency collaboration with DelDOT and for the help from the Delaware Bay and River Cooperative enabling us take the cleanup onto the water,” said Garvin.


The city of Lewes closed its beaches temporarily on Thursday due to oil that had come ashore and posed a threat to people and pets who visit them. DNREC closed the 4-wheel drive surf fishing crossing at Delaware Beach Plum Island Preserve, overseen by Delaware State Parks, so cleanup operations will not be hampered by vehicles tracking oil onto the sand.

For more information on tarballs, tar patties, their formation and the risk presented by them click the following link:


While the oil spill cleanup continues, the Coast Guard and DNREC strongly advise the public not to handle any oily product found or attempt to assist affected wildlife along the shore, but to report these findings to DNREC's environmental hotline at 800-662-8802 so the situations can be addressed by hazmat-trained professionals.