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Jemima Kelly, Published October 19 2013

Oily gunk sticks to Louisiana shores

NEW ORLEANS – The amount of oil found on Louisiana’s coast has surged this year, three years after BP’s Macondo spill in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority said.

In the first eight months of this year, some 3 million pounds of “oily material” were cleaned up on Louisiana’s coast, up from 119,894 pounds in the same period last year, according to a report posted on the website of the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

The report did not say why there was a more than twentyfold increase in the amount collected this year, or if Tropical Storm Karen washed away sand to expose oil already on beaches when it moved through the Gulf earlier this month. Some of the oil, especially so-called tar balls, apparently washed ashore after Karen hit.

The report said more than 200 miles of Louisiana shoreline still display some degree of oil pollution after the largest offshore crude spill in U.S. history.

“The conventional wisdom would be that the number (of pounds of oily materials collected) should go down, obviously. But if the response effort was insufficient ... I think the numbers speak for themselves,” said Garret Graves, chairman of the authority, on Thursday.

Danny Wallace, BP incident commander, said the rise in recoveries this year stemmed from where BP was focusing its efforts after Hurricane Isaac rearranged sands in August, 2012.

“In 2013 most cleanup activities have focused on the barrier islands where Hurricane Isaac uncovered heavily-weathered residual oil that had been buried when tropical storms deposited deep layers of sand along the shoreline in 2010 and 2011,” Wallace said.

BP also said that some of the oil on the shore could have come from natural seeps on the seafloor and that much of the material collected included sand, shells and water.

The coastal authority represents several public agencies and helps coordinate BP’s restoration work.

This month in New Orleans, lawyers for BP and the federal government have tussled in court over how much oil spilled during the 87 days it took before workers were able to cap the well mishap that killed 11 men.

U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier is expected to decide early next year how much BP should be fined under the Clean Water Act for the spill.

The government has told the court that some 4.9 million barrels spilled. BP has estimated just 3.26 million barrels escaped into the sea.