by Terry Rogers
Governor John Carney surveyed Slaughter Beach on Friday, October 23, one of the coastal areas impacted by an oil spill on Monday. The origin of the oil spill is still unknown, although samples have been sent to create a “petroleum footprint” that may determine where it originated.
“When people ask why we are opposed to offshore drilling, this is why,” Governor Carney said, holding up a small cup with oil residue inside. “There is a tremendous risk of things like this happening. One of the good things it does, however, is to shine a light on our first responders. The Coast Guard, natural resources, fire companies, all of them have stepped up to try to contain and mitigate this as best they can.”
The spill occurred Monday evening with oil washing up on Broadkill Beach. Oil was then carried out into the Bay by the tide, affecting more coastal beaches like Beach Plum Island, Roosevelt Inlet, Lewes and Slaughter Beach. The Governor stated that he had wanted to visit sooner, but the first part of each week is dedicated to the COVID-19 Task Force. Several municipalities along the shore, including Lewes, closed beaches in order to prevent visitors from coming in contact with the oil.
“We let the municipalities make that call,” the Governor said. “Kind of like we did with COVID-19 and closing the beaches is the right thing to do. You don’t want people waling through the oil and tracking it around. The towns have been great partners with us in helping to not only mitigate this but throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Preliminary tests on the oil found on the beaches showed that it was a heavy fuel oil that may be leaking from an operating vessel and not crude oil from the hold of a tanker. The spill, which was observed using drones, spanned three-quarters of a mile and, by Tuesday morning, had spread along seven miles of beach. As of Tuesday, there had been no reports of wildlife being impacted by the spill.
“People who live here do not have to be told this, but our shoreline is beautiful,” Governor Carney said. “This is a reminder how important yet fragile our coastline, a critical part of our economy, is. There are a lot of ships that travel up and down the bay, delivering the goods we all need and this indicates that it does not take much to create a problem that can spread quickly by the tides.”
The United States Coast Guard, Department of Natural Resources, firefighters and many volunteers have been working throughout the week to remove oil from the beaches.