SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas — Gooey oil blobs as big as basketballs have been washing up on the sandy beaches of South Padre Island in Texas, officials said Thursday.
The Texas General Land Office said it doesn't know what is causing the tar-like blobs, but authorities were working to clean up the popular tourist destination. Beaches have not been closed.
Crews "scooped out a bunch of tar balls on the beach," agency spokesman Jim Suydam told The Associated Press. "We're doing analysis of the currents to track it back to the source as well as collecting some of the tar balls for chemical analysis to see where it came from."
At least seven 55-gallon drums of oil have been removed since Wednesday morning after tourists began calling in reports of seeing blobs of oil on the beach, Suydam said.
"We don't know the source. We suspect it's coming from south of the border," he said. Texas authorities are in the process of contacting Mexican officials for help pinpointing the contamination, he said.
The spill was first reported at the mouth of the Rio Grande when what appeared to be fresh crude oil began washing ashore. The tar balls affected about one mile of beach from the mouth of the Rio Grande to the town of South Padre Island.
"We are working to quickly clean this up and will take any steps necessary to protect South Padre Island beaches, as well as the South Bay Coastal Preserve," General Land Office Commissioner Jerry Patterson said in a statement.
South Padre Island, located on the tip of southern Texas, is an internationally known beach destination that is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico and Laguna Madre Bay.
Though the beaches remain open, state officials want people to stay away from the oil blobs. Baby oil can be used to wash the skin if contact with the oil occurs, they said.