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Investigators find tar balls on Rockaways beach, check reports of LI impact

In the incident earlier this year, this tar

In the incident earlier this year, this tar ball washed up on Long Beach on Jan. 14. The new sheen and tar balls are in waters off the shore, the Coast Guard said. Credit: Raychel Brightman

A possible fuel leak from a cargo ship prompted an investigation by federal, state and local authorities on Sunday that resulted in the discovery of a 400-yard-long band of tar balls by a seaside park in the Rockaways, officials said.

During shoreline assessments conducted Sunday afternoon, members of the Unified Command Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Technique teams located the 400-yard by two-feet band of tar balls at Jacob Riis Park.

The Unified Command intends to deploy crews proficient in the cleanup of tar balls on Monday when the tide is favorable.

Investigators from the U.S. Coast Guard, NYPD and state Department of Environmental Conservation had been inspecting possible shoreline and waterway impacts of the tar balls from Norton Point to Atlantic Beach.

The Coast Guard had about 20 inspectors on the beaches Sunday afternoon. 

The vessel Dublin Express in the Arthur Kill waterway, a channel between Staten Island and New Jersey, reported a leak on Thursday in its fuel tank, which has the capacity to hold about 300,000 gallons of fuel oil.

Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Allyson Conroy said the ship had run into "heavy weather" before entering port. The amount of fuel oil spilled is under investigation.

In January, tar balls washed up on the shoreline between Lido Beach and Long Beach.

The state DEC first reported the tar balls on the beach at Jacob Riis Park at the southwestern end of the Rockaway Peninsula, notifying the Coast Guard, officials said. The NYPD conducted an aerial search Saturday afternoon.

“I’d like to assure the community that the Coast Guard and our partner agencies are working as quickly as possible to ensure a thorough clean-up, determine the source of the spill, and hold the responsible party accountable,” Capt. Jason Tama, the Sector New York commander and federal on-scene coordinator, said in a statement. “Our immediate priorities are to ensure the safety of the public, protection of wildlife and the environment.”

As part of the response to the oil spill in Arthur Kill near the Goethals Bridge, the Coast Guard conducted an overflight of the area from the points on Coney Island to Atlantic Beach.

Beachgoers and waterway users should avoid contact with any tar balls and other oiled material. Anyone who sees them should call the Coast Guard sector New York command center at 718-354-4353.

On March 23, the DEC received reports of tar balls on Long Beach, but it turned out that the material was "naturally occurring organics or peat balls," according to a spokeswoman for the agency. 

With David M. Schwartz

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