Thousands of BP’s tarballs cover Alabama’s uninhabited beaches

Tarballs linger on Alabama’s uninhabited beaches
Published: Sunday, May 08, 2011, 9:00 AM
Ben Raines, Press-Register

DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. — Tarballs linger on Alabama’s uninhabited beaches, clustering around the edges of sand dunes and sticking to seashells and driftwood.

The public beaches of Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and Dauphin Island received deep cleanings over the winter and are still monitored daily. But the more remote beaches not typically accessible to tourists, such as the west end of Dauphin Island and portions of the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, have not received the same treatment.

In part, that’s because state officials asked BP to prioritize the cleanup of the public beaches before tourist season. More importantly, U.S. Fish & Wildlife officials in the Joint Incident Command forbade any cleanup activities after March 1 in order to protect nesting shorebirds and turtles.

In an emailed statement, a BP spokesman promised the company would resume work on the uninhabited beaches as soon as they were allowed to. Federal officials indicated that it would likely be late summer before workers were allowed to return to the closed areas.

“The remoteness and human use inaccessibility of this portion of the island has made it highly attractive to colonial seabirds and shorebirds for nesting,” read the statement. “Pursuant to state and federal guidelines protecting these species, cleanup operations in this area were paused in March. We will work with local, state, and federal officials to monitor nesting activity to determine when it is appropriate to return to cleanup operations.”

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