Tarball cleanup continues along North County beaches

Tarballs have been washing up on local beaches since the oil spill in Huntington Beach.
(Courtesy of Marlene Stanger)

Carmel Valley resident Marlene Stanger typically walks the beach in Del Mar about five times per week. On a recent walk, she and a friend picked up and bagged about six pounds of tarballs.

“We didn’t want to leave it there,” said Stanger, an immigration law attorney.

Officials handling the cleanup of the Huntington Beach oil spill, who have been advising the public to avoid contact with the tarballs, announced recently that they are focusing on North County beaches as more tar ball sightings are reported.

Many tarballs have latched onto seaweed.
(Courtesy of Marlene Stanger)

The latest update by the state and local agencies who are responding to the spill, issued Oct. 18, said that crews are still cleaning beaches in San Diego and Orange counties. Local beaches remain open.

Rancho Santa Fe resident Cynthia Stern, who often walks the beach with Stanger, said the two of them began picking up trash on the beach after the pandemic began. She said it would be great if the local community could assist with the tarball cleanup.

“They could even give out gloves to people, and people would love to do something like that and feel like they’re doing some kind of community service,” she said.

It has been a little more than a month since the oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach was first reported. The Union-Tribune reported in the first week of October that there had been tarball sightings throughout North County’s coastal cities.

The city of Del Mar announced in mid-October that cleanup crews with hazardous material training would be spending three days combing the beach for tarballs.

The spill has added a sense of urgency to legislation regarding drilling off the coast.

In Solana Beach, the City Council approved a resolution Oct. 27 in opposition to new offshore oil and gas drilling, and in support of the American Coasts and Ocean Protection Act. The bill was introduced by U.S. Rep. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, in May.

“This is very timely,” Solana Beach City Councilwoman Jewel Edson said. “I can’t begin to qualify how important the health of our beaches are to our community.”

If beachgoers come into contact with tar balls, officials recommend washing with soap and water or baby oil, and to avoid using solvents, gasoline, kerosine, diesel fuel or similar products.

For more information or to report tar balls, visit SoCalSpillResponse.com/tarballs or email tarballreports@wildlife.ca.gov.