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State Begins Cleanup Of Oily Beaches

August 21, 1985

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) _ A state agency today began cleaning up gooey oil from an unknown source that has chased tourists away from the popular Mustang and Padre Island beaches.

The Texas Department of Water Resources decided late Tuesday to send in a clean-up crew after efforts to get the U.S. Coast Guard to clean up the oil failed, Nueces County Commissioner J.P. Luby said.

The amount of oil washing up on the beaches has decreased, Luby said. Most of the oil came ashore Sunday and some on Monday, with little additional oil arriving Tuesday, he said.

Officials said they have not been able to determine the source of the oil.

Clean-up crews were using a motor grader, a front-end loader and four dump trucks and bulldozers provided by the state highway department to remove contaminated sand, he said. Such sand is usually moved from the beach to a dune area where the oil eventually decomposes.

The Coast Guard said it declined to join the project on grounds the problem is cosmetic rather than a hazard. Sue Stendebach of the natural resources division of the governor’s office said Water Resources representatives had asked the Coast Guard to reconsider.

″Everyone here is very concerned with getting that taken care of, especially in time for the Labor Day weekend,″ she said.

If the oil leak is from a well or tanker, the owner could be forced to pay for the cleanup.

Richard Scalan, an organic geochemist with the Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, said the oil washing ashore is similar to oil found on beaches two months ago. Supertankers often transfer oil to other ships out in the Gulf to make their ships light enough to enter the Port of Corpus Christi, Scalan said, and during the process some may be spilled.

During regular loading and unloading in the past year, there have been 33 minor oil spills within the port, according to the Corpus Christi Area Oil Spill Association.

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