From Green Right Now Reports

Government experts reported today that those tarballs found on beaches in the Florida Keys earlier this week are NOT from the BP Oil Spill.

Coast Guard experts tested samples of the 20-odd tar balls found at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West and “determined that none of the collected samples are from the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill,” according to a news release from the oil spill response team.

Which raises more questions than it answers: If the tarballs are not from the BP spill, then where did they come from? Is there an underwater gusher somewhere we don’t know about? Are tar balls a fact of life in the Gulf of Mexico — a byproduct of thousands of offshore oil operations?

Apparently, tarballs, little sticky ones and big globulous ones, are a part of life in the gulf. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a web page devoted to tarballs.

NOAA calls them “remnants of oil spills.” Fresh oil is lighter, but after hanging around for a while, it becomes more dense, because parts of it have evaporated.

“Various physical, chemical, and biological processes change the appearance of the oil. These processes are generally called “weathering,” NOAA explains.

So a tarball is oil that’s been around the block (but not necessary on the loop current). It’s not the same as the oil floating atop the water from a fresh spill.

But just because these vintage oil blobs, which hit a few other spots in the Keys, do not fit the BP spill timeline, doesn’t mean they’re a less urgent issue.

“The conclusion that these tar balls are not from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill incident in no way diminishes the need to continue to aggressively identify and clean up tar ball-contaminated areas in the Florida Keys,” said Capt. Pat DeQuattro, commanding officer of Sector Key West.

The tar ball-watching public is advised to report any new smatterings of tar or oilings of beaches. Authorities warn that people should not handle this hazardous material, but call the U.S. Coast Guard for assistance at 1 (800) 424-8802.  Oiled shorelines can be reported to 1 (866) 448-5816.