MALIBU—As the beach season in Southern California approaches its peak, beach-goers are finding the sticky, marble-like substances known as ‘tar balls’ along the shores of beaches.

Tar balls are described as solidified forms of crude oil or petroleum that can float long distances thanks to their low density. They have been reported along such areas as Malibu and Santa Monica.

According to a representative of Plain Pipeline All American, the company that owned the ruptured pipeline, known as Line 901, maintains that the tar balls were not simply a direct result of the oil spill, but comprised of oil from other sources.

Samples tested in Manhattan Beach confirmed that the oil not from Line 901 was present in the mixture, while testing down in Redondo Beach showed it was as far south the oil from Line 901 traveled along the coast.

"Tar balls" have been reported along the shores of several popular South Bay beaches.
“Tar balls” have been reported along the shores of several popular South Bay beaches.

Several beaches throughout the South Bay closed immediately after the substance was first spotted to reduce public exposure and proceed with initial clean-up efforts.

After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, also known as the BP oil spill, tar balls began to appear along the shores of states along the Gulf Coast. BP declared that tar balls were not a health hazard and much less toxic than crude oil. The CDC confirmed this.

While the exact figure is still not determined, an estimated 101,000 gallons of crude oil was leaked from the pipeline, with approximately one fifth of that amount leaking into the ocean. Since 2006, the company has been issued at least 175 infractions for substance release violations from pipelines within their facilities, the fifth highest among pipeline operators in the nation.

The Refugio Oil Spill was the largest in California in 25 years. The clean-up has been projected to last several months, with its total cost not yet known, but it has already cost the state well north of $65 million. The full extent of the ecological damage has yet to be determined.

Popular Fourth of July fireworks shows and events scheduled for the beaches where the tar balls from the oil spill have been reported include El Segundo and Torrance Beach.