Tarballs Washing Up on Big Island Beach

THE BIG ISLAND (Ben Caxton) — Tarballs have been found washing up on a Big Island beach this week. The handful of sticky black blobs at Spencer Beach Park prompted an investigation by the state Department of Health after Hawaii County filed a complaint about a potential oil spill. Officials from DOH, Hawaii County Parks and Recreation, and even beach lifeguards walked the beach last Friday and wound up with just two or three of the tarballs stuck to shoes according to an email sent in answer to a question from West Hawaii Today. Tarballs form due to the action of sun, wind, and waves on oil slicks in the ocean and can travel hundreds of miles from the source making it difficult to determine who, if anyone is responsible. Oil slicks on the open ocean are a natural occurrence from cracks in the earth’s crust that continually allow small amounts of oil into the water. They can also be caused by leaks from ships and tankers, and if so, those responsible can be fined by the state.

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