SUSSEX COUNTY, Del. – Work continues to clean up the oil spill reported on Broadkill Beach on Monday. According to DNREC, it has since spread south into Beach Plum Island near Cape Henlopen, as well as the Roosevelt Inlet and Lewes.
DNREC originally estimated that five barrels of oil were spilled in the Delaware Bay, which is about 215 gallons, but said that estimation is likely going up.
DNREC is working with the U.S. Coast Guard to clean up the spill, but State Emergency Prevention & Response Chief Jamie Bethard says the changing tides are making the situation more difficult.
He said, “The issue we have with tidal waters normally is that it pulls back out when the tide changes. So we’re having a little bit of migration of oil going up and down the beach front here. Right now the focus for DNREC Emergency Response and the agency is to protect the environment and try to get the oil off the beach. And if it continues to come in on the water at all, to get that off our beach front as soon as possible, to protect all our birds and all the other environmental critters that are out here.”
Luckily, horseshoe crab spawning season has passed. Most of the shells and carcasses that you see along the shoreline are not due to Monday’s oil spill. But, there are still other ecological worries at hand, particularly the sea turtles that are off the coast this season.
Suzanne Thurman from the MERR Institute said, “The Delaware Bay is a very important habitat area for sea turtles because of the food sources there for their foraging.”
It is extremely easy for sea turtles and other wildlife to become contaminated.
“Any animal that’s breathing, that inhales it, there’s a great potential for aerosol transfer of the product,” Thurman said.
DNREC has sent samples of the oil to the Coast Guard for testing. DNREC tells us the source was likely a leak from an active sea vessel, not crude oil from a traditional tanker.
The cleanup for the spill is expected to last throughout the rest of the week, and possibly through the weekend as well.