Discovery of 'tar balls' on Long Island beach prompts investigation

LONG BEACH, Long Island (WABC) -- A troubling discovery off the coast of Long Island has sparked an investigation into what appears to be balls of tar washing on up Lido Beach.

Resident Troy Larson spotted the objects this week -- hard black chunks sporadically along a 3.5-mile stretch of shoreline.

"If the water's dirty, they gotta get it fixed. It might not be healthy for people," Larson said.

New York's Department of Environmental Conservation is investigating just how much of what washed up on shore might actually be tar balls and how much might be peat or clay.

John Mirando, Long Beach's Commissioner of Public Works, says there is no cause for alarm.

"Based on what I was told by the DEC, there was only a few tar balls mixed in with a larger amount of clay-type deposits," Mirando said.

But according to the DEC, approximately one ton of both materials -- peat and tar balls -- were collected over the two-day cleanup.

The DEC is planning to determine exactly how much of the balls might be petroleum-based. A DEC spokesperson released the following statement:

"DEC thoroughly inspected the site after receiving reports of tar balls in the area. DEC and a contractor completed the cleanup of the tar balls and peat balls this morning to address this pollution. The tar balls will be submitted for sampling prior to disposal at an approved facility"

In the summer, the tar balls would be hot and sticky, but not in the winter. Environmental officials remain concerned as a polar bear swim is set to take place on the beach in just over two weeks.

The good news is there have been no reports of nearby oil spills, so whatever the substance is, it is likely very old.

The DEC encourages the public to report tar balls and oil spills to the Spills Hotline at 1-800-457-7362.

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