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Tar balls washing up on San Diego County beaches, unclear if linked to oil spill

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Posted at 5:03 PM, Oct 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-08 20:03:45-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - After the oil spill to our north off the coast of Orange County, shoreline cleanup and assessment teams are checking out beaches from Oceanside to San Diego Friday.

According to the County of San Diego, the teams are sampling water, soil, and air and will be testing that in the coming days.

This week, black tar balls have been reported washing up at beaches in Oceanside, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Del Mar, and Mission Beach.

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

On Friday, an ABC 10News viewer alerted us to more she said she found at Pacific Beach near the lifeguard station.

ABC 10News crews discovered more when they arrived at the beach.

According to a spokesperson for San Diego Fire-Rescue, the City of San Diego is working with other agencies to monitor the spill, and right now, the spokesperson said there is no oil, although there are tar balls on the sand. We’re told it’s not uncommon for tar balls to be found, and natural geologic processes may cause them to wash up on beaches. It’s still unclear if the tar balls found are linked to the spill.

San Diego County beaches remain open to the public, but the county has issued a public health advisory as they await results to be returned.

If tar balls are found on the beach, you’re asked not to touch them. If you do, wash the body with soap and water or other cleaners safe on the skin.

You can report tar balls by emailing

County officials ask to include the following information in your email:

  1. Date the oil was observed
  2. Time the oil was observed
  3. Specific location where the oil was observed. GPS coordinates are preferred.
  4. Descriptive photos of the oil (Please do not touch it)
  5. A short visual/physical description of the oil
  6. Estimated quantity
  7. Contact information for follow-up.