Some Atlantic beaches in Del., Md. cleared of oily debris

Beaches in Maryland and the southernmost parts of Delaware are no longer affected by the Oct. 20 oil spill, officials said today.

Beaches cleared include the part of Cape Henlopen State Park along the Atlantic Ocean, Bethany, South Bethany, Fenwick Island, Ocean City and Assateague Island State Park, according to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

The beach in Lewes remains temporarily closed, and beachgoers to other affected areas are strongly advised to stay out of the water and avoid walking along the wrack or high tide line.

“We got tons of oily debris and weathered oil off our beaches, but we’re not done yet,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin. “Our experts continue to survey our coastline, assessing the cleanup operation, and as we move ahead, conducting final evaluations of our beaches to make sure the job is done.”

After an oil spill, winds and waves tear oil into smaller pieces that can be scattered many miles. It mixes with water and is changed in a process called “weathering,” and it also mixes with sand and other marine debris. About 75 tons of oily debris has been removed by crews during this response.

When the spill was first reported at Broadkill Beach, the oil was said to be size of manhole covers. Officials later said they were down to dealing with pieces the size of pancakes and coins.

The intensity of cleanup has therefore been reduced, with the elimination Wednesday of a command post in Slaughter Beach. Coordination among DNREC, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Maryland Department of the Environment will now be conducted remotely.

“We will continue to watch areas that have been impacted and will shift resources as necessary,” said Lt. Cmdr. Frederick Pugh, the U.S. Coast Guard incident commander.

The cause of the oil spill remains under investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard. If a source is identified, the responsible party would be required to reimburse the federal government for the cleanup.

The public is asked to continue reporting sizable sightings of oiled debris, tar balls or oiled wildlife to DNREC at 800-662-8802 and in Maryland at 866-633-4686.

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