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Public Health Advisory issued after tar balls found on North County beaches

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Posted at 9:12 PM, Oct 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-08 15:47:24-04

CARLSBAD, Calif. (KGTV) – San Diego County officials met on Thursday at Carlsbad State Beach to announce that tar balls had been found at beaches in the area and in Oceanside.

"Lifeguards with the city of Carlsbad and Oceanside observed tar balls on their beaches,” San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said.

County health officials also issued a public health advisory after the tar balls were found. The county acknowledged that there were reports of tar balls seen in Del Mar and Encinitas.

"It is concerning considering that this is our hometown, and we spend 90 percent of our time at the beach,” Tricia Taylor, a Carlsbad resident, said.


This could happen naturally but, with the Orange County oil spill happening not too far away, there's a suspicion of where the tar balls originated from.

"It is very likely that these tar balls are a result of the oil spill,” Fletcher said.

But, that is not for certain. Fletcher said that crews are testing the tar balls to see if they originated from the Orange County spill.

“And while we’re operating out of an abundance of caution ... at this point, the health risks are unknown,” County Supervisor Jim Desmond said. “The message is clear — we should not have offshore drilling out for coastline in San Diego County.”

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Sky10 flew overhead near Oceanside Pier on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, were tar balls were reported. The tar is believed to be from an oil spill in Orange County the weekend prior.

What the county is doing...

The county announced it would be activating its emergency operations center, which will continue to access monitor the situation and identify what additional steps would need to be taken.

"Today's a day none of us really wanted, but we got to deal with it now,” Desmond said.

In addition to the oil boom at the Santa Margarita River, it was also announced on Thursday that an oil boom will be placed near the Carlsbad Desalination Plant.

In a written statement, the plant said, in part, “The Carlsbad Desalination Plant continues to operate normally with no oil detected at the site, and there are no plans to shut it down.”

“If as a county, we felt that there was a public health threat or risk, then we would work in coordination with those. We’re not at that point today,” Fletcher said. “Even if its tar balls do trace back to the oil spill, which I think is highly likely, we declare a state of emergency, but that doesn’t immediately mean you would see beach closures.”

The county said in its public health advisory:

“Although crude or processed oil can be carcinogenic and contact should be avoided, occasional brief contact is unlikely to cause significant or lasting health concerns for most people. However, some individuals are especially sensitive to certain chemicals which may be found in oil slicks or tar balls and may therefore develop skin rashes or other reactions as a result. If contact occurs, the body area should be thoroughly cleaned with soap and water or other skin-safe cleaners. Do not use degreasers, cleaning solutions or solvents as they may damage the skin further. If a significant rash or other reaction occurs, consult your primary care provider.”

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Tar balls were discovered in the Carlsbad area recently by resident Mike Larson.

Upcoming weather could impact the situation...

Alex Tardy, with the National Weather Service, said the storms this week could have had an impact on what’s floating around in the water.

"A lot of heavy rain -- which moved all over the ocean over the oil spill along the coast ... so that certainly can disrupt anything over the water let alone oil," said Tardy.

Tardy added that another round of storms that are expected to come next week could pose even more problems for the clean-up efforts.

"The big deal with that storm early next week is the wind. So recovery efforts this weekend and early next week will have to factor in that wind going over the ocean water," Tardy said.

For Vicki and Mike Larson, walking the beach and picking up trash is part of their routine in Carlsbad. But, over the last few days, they’ve noticed the increasing sign of the oil spill to the north.

“It's not good -- it's a naturally occurring substance, but we don't have to see an increase," said Mike Larson.