An oil spill on Broadkill Beach along the Delaware Bayshore in mid-October led to the deployment of over 100 personnel under the unified command of the United States Coast Guard and Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) on the scene. As of October 26 through the first week of effort, about 55 tons – enough to fill four construction dumpsters – had been successfully recovered.
“The job of removing oil from our beaches is challenging and labor-intensive, but we’re making progress,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin. “Our teams are getting more and more of it off our beaches every day.”
The oil spill from an unknown source first appeared at Broadkill Beach and quickly began migrating to other Delaware beaches on both the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Coast. Surveys over the weekend and early Monday the 26th found small globs of oil and oily debris scattered from Bowers Beach to Fenwick Island. The towns of Lewes and Dewey Beach closed their beaches temporarily due to the oil that washed up on shore, some of it settling into a gravel-like substance, known as tar balls.
Signs were posted by local authorities at beach crossovers and on dune fences informing the public to avoid the oil patties and tar balls at the water’s edge, and of area closures. The 4-wheel drive surf fishing crossing at Delaware Beach Plum Island Preserve, overseen by Delaware State Parks, was also closed so cleanup operations will not be hampered by vehicles tracking oil onto the sand.
“Our crews and technology are yielding positive results,” said USCG Lt. Cmdr. Fredrick Pugh, federal incident commander. “We’re seeing a lot of this pollutant coming off of our beaches by the ton and that feels like a high level of productivity, but we’re not letting up. These communities need their beaches back.”
The unified command received additional reports of oiled birds, and the Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research of Newark continued to investigate reports while treating any wildlife oiled in the water.
The Coast Guard and DNREC strongly advise the public not to handle any oily product found or attempt to assist affected wildlife along the shore, but to report these findings to DNREC’s environmental hotline at 800-662-8802 so the situations can be addressed by hazmat-trained professionals.