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Encinitas says beaches remain open after increased tar ball reports

moonlight-beach-mark-oconnor.jpg
Alexander Nguyen
Mark O'Connor walks along Moonlight Beach picking up trash in Encinitas, Calif. Oct. 7, 2021.

Encinitas beaches remained open Friday despite increased reports of tar balls washing ashore in North County.

On Thursday, the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency advised the public to be cautious at beaches and avoid contact with tar balls. In an update on its website, the city of Encinitas informed residents there was an ongoing investigation into the source of the tar balls.

It was unclear if the increased numbers were directly related to the oil spill off the Orange County coast, a county official said.

Natural geologic processes may cause tar balls to wash ashore and visible oil had not been detected, the official said.

The warning was precautionary, as oil content may vary widely based on location, and health impacts are unknown, the official said. Crude or processed oil can be carcinogenic and contact should be avoided.

However, the official said that brief contact with the substance was "unlikely to cause significant or lasting health concerns for most people."

People especially sensitive to certain chemicals possibly found in oil slicks or tar balls may develop skin rashes or other conditions. Anyone coming into contact with tar balls should clean thoroughly with soap and water or other skin-safe cleaners, the officials said.

The agency advised people not to use degreasers, cleaning solutions or solvents, which could further damage skin, and to seek medical attention if a significant rash or reaction develops.

Encinitas officials asked residents who observe oil or tar balls to email tarballreports@wildlife.ca.gov and provide the date, time and location where the oil was observed, a brief physical/visual description or photographs, along with the estimated quantity and to provide contact information.

Anyone who sees wildlife affected by oil should not attempt to help — as this requires special handling — but instead should call 877-823-6926.

An update on animals recovered during the oil spill is at owcn.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/pipeline-p00547-incident.

Assessment Crews deployed to San Diego to look for traces of oil