Lumps of a hardened, tar-like substance are still being discovered on beaches in East Grand Bahama.
The Department of Environmental Planning and Protection (DEPP) has not determined the source of similar blobs found in August.
Last month, reports and photos of oil and tar-like blobs on the feet of beach walkers taking their early morning exercise, on the paws of their pets and on the legs of those taking a swim started flooding social media.
There were reports and photos of oil blobs below the sand underwater stretching from Coral Beach, Lucaya all the way to Gold Rock Creek at Lucaya National Park.
Freetown resident Glenroy Cooper took photographs of the blobs during recent daily walks on the beach.
“Normally every evening I go out to the beach and relax from the day’s work. About two weeks ago, I saw these hard black lumps on the beach and that never used to happen before,” Cooper said.
The frequent beach walker said that he thought nothing of it until he had a second and third experience.
“On one of the walks with my wife, I decided to let my inner child out and roll around in the sand. When I got home, I realized my whole body was covered in black stuff. The next time I went walking on the beach, when I returned to sit and relax, my feet were black at the bottom,” he said.
Cooper said this had never happened in the many years he has been going to the beach for walks.
“Years back when you would go to the beach, you used to see maybe one or two little black balls; but not in this magnitude when you’re walking and just about every step you make, you could identify these things,” he said.
Cooper said he’s also seen people collecting the lumps.
“I questioned them, asking what was going on,” he said.
But he said that no one would tell him who they worked for or why they were collecting the blobs.
“I don’t blame them; I know they have their jobs to do,” he said.
Then he discovered a slab of the black material.
“I found a slab of the stuff measuring about 12×10. I broke it apart and I am sure it was some type of oil,” he said.
Cooper said following that incident, he reached out to Chairman of Save The Bays Joseph Darville and told him about the large piece of black substance on the beach.
Darville confirmed speaking with Cooper and receiving the photos he took.
He told Grand Bahama News, “The smaller blobs are definitely the oil colligating among the weeds, sea weeds on the beach.”
However, he was unable to identify the larger black slab.
“I don’t know what it could be,” Darville said.
“I haven’t seen it up close myself, other than the picture that was sent. We used to have stuff like that a long time ago that came ashore on the north side of Long Island, and I think it used to be whale blubber or sperm which might be an extremely valuable thing.”
Darville is planning to meet Cooper in the coming days to collect a piece of the slab and have it examined.
Founder of EARTHCARE, Gail Woon is not convinced that the lumps are tar, and said that they could be organic material made out of decaying vegetation.
“The decaying vegetation, which is what ‘peat’ is, is normally found underground on all of our beaches,” Woon explained.
“It becomes exposed at certain times of year due to the changing tides … when the waves remove the sand it becomes exposed. Later in the season, it will become buried again.”
Department of Environmental Protection and Planning (DEPP) Director Dr. Rhianna Neely-Murphy said there have been no recent reports of discovery of the tar-like substance.
Regarding the reports received in August, she said, “At this time there are no results that have been shared. We still do not know the origins of the particles, but once they are available, we will advise.”
Early in August, Buckeye Bahamas Hub reported an oil spill incident at its terminal.
In a statement company officials confirmed that the spill occurred just before 6 a.m. on August 2, during a flushing operation to facilitate the transfer of products between two tanks.
“Within minutes of the transfer commencing, the product fuel from loading arm 82, which was inactive and in the stowed position at the time of the incident, began spraying out. This resulted in approximately five to 10 barrels of product fuel spraying out. It is estimated that between two and three barrels of the product went into the water,” they said.
Days after, DEPP announced that a joint task force made up of officials from DEPP, the government’s Port Department, the GBPA’s Environmental Department and Lucaya Service Company (LUSCO) was investigating the reports.
The DEPP said, “The responding agencies, with assistance from private citizens and non-governmental agencies, have enacted remediation protocols in conjunction with the relevant environmental agencies to ensure the swift and proper remediation of oil deposits.”
The statement continued, “The task force is systemically checking beaches island-wide as they continue to monitor impacted shorelines.”