Coast Guard

Beaches Closed as Maryland, Delaware Oil Spill Coats 65 Tons of Debris

A lab will analyze the oil for a “petroleum fingerprint” that could help determine the unknown source of the spill

Delaware Maryland oil spill
US Coast Guard/Petty Officer 3rd Class Issac Cross

Some popular beaches in Delaware are closed after an oil spill left tar balls and oiled debris scattered along the waterfront from Bowers, Delaware to Ocean City, Maryland, about 65 miles south. The source of the spill is still unknown. 

Oil patties “as large as a manhole cover” began washing ashore on Broadkill Beach in Delaware on Oct. 20, the U.S. Coast Guard said. By late Tuesday, crews had removed 65 tons of oily debris and sand from Delaware beaches, the Coast Guard said in an update Wednesday morning. 

“We’re not sure how long oily debris will continue to wash up with the tide,” Shawn Garvin, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control secretary, said in a a statement. 

Bethany Beach, Dewey Beach and Lewes Beach were closed, the Coast Guard said Wednesday morning. Visitors were strongly advised to stay out of the water and avoid any debris deposited during high tide. 

Sixty-six birds were reported to have been covered in oil as of Monday, the Coast Guard said. Wildlife were being treated by the Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research of Newark. 


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A lab will analyze the oil for a “petroleum fingerprint” that could help determine the source of the spill. If the source is identified, the responsible party will be billed for the damage. No running total was available for the cost of the cleanup effort.

Waves and the tide are distributing the oil, and Tropical Storm Zeta may interrupt crews' work to remove it.

If you see oil patties or oil-covered wildlife, call Delaware officials at 800-662-8802 or Maryland officials at 866-633-4686.

Stay with NBC Washington for more details on this developing story.

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