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Tar balls washing up on beaches from San Clemente State Beach to Gaviota State Park were found not to be linked to the Refugio oil leak, according to a Friday press release from Plains All American Pipeline, L.L.C., the company that manages the pipeline that caused last month’s spill off the Santa Barbara coast.
The pipeline company said in the release that chemical fingerprinting conducted by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the University of California Santa Barbara and Zymax Forensics Laboratory identified more than 50 samples between the affected areas as being from “other sources” than the May 11 spill.
Samples were taken from tar balls from May 19 to June 11, the release stated, and the tar tested was from “natural seepage.”
“Sheen sampling was conducted offshore at seven locations between Refugio and El Capitan Beaches on June 4, and results confirmed the source of this material was entirely from natural seeps,” the pipeline company announced.
On June 22, California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials said in a press release that some of the tar balls they tested had matched the contents of the pipeline.
Officials continue to look into the safety measures and reaction time Plains took during the day of the spill, and cleanup efforts continue at beaches affected by the spill. Orange County Lifeguards officials in Dana Point said during a phone interview last week that the tar balls have not been a significant enough problem to warrant a cleanup effort.
Natural seepage is a known source of periodic tar on Southern California beaches, authorities said.