Alabama Family: Oily Seashells and Tarballs Led to Sickness

July 16, 2012
From Local 15 TV (FOLEY, Ala.) – A Foley family said they became seriously ill after swimming on the beach in Gulf Shores where tarballs and oily sea shells were washing up Sunday. James Nolan said their bodies were coated in a tacky, brown tar that was nearly impossible to clean off.

“It was all over our arms and our legs,” Nolan said, who was swimming in Laguna Key. “I threw up right after. I never do that. We all feel flu-like symptoms today.”

Nolan collected dozens of tarballs, shells covered in brown tar, and unusual black oyster shells that reek of diesel. Nolan has lived in Gulf Shores his whole life, and says this is most definitely from the BP oil spill and not discharged by a passing boat or barge.

Nolan said it took several bottles of Dawn dishwashing liquid and a pot scrubber four times over to get the tar off their bodies.

“Even after all that, I can still feel it on my skin,” Nolan said.

City of Gulf Shores spokesman Grant Brown told Local 15 there were several reports of the tarballs and that BP was notified, but that they were “not a health risk” to beachgoers. BP cleanup crews were spotted cleaning up the area on Monday, but Local 15 was still able to find a number of the tar oyster shells and tarballs later in the day.

Nolan also lives by the BP storage facility on the Foley Beach Express where they park all of their cleanup vehicles and equipment. This past week, BP abruptly picked up and left, vacating the facility.

While Nolan was concerned it was a sign BP was abandoning their cleanup effort on local beaches, a BP official told Local 15 that crews are still out doing their scheduled cleanups and have not slowed down. While they did vacate the Foley storage facility, they simply moved their cleanup vehicles to a contractor’s site three miles away.

Nolan depends on tourism to make a living and does not want to see the industry hurt, but is speaking out because he believes there are serious health issues being ignored and officials are underestimating the impact of the oil spill and what’s to come.

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