A stretch of coastline closed for cleanup of tar balls that washed ashore this week was reopened to the public on Thursday morning, according to a statement from the Long Beach Fire Department.
Long Beach was the latest in a series of Southern California communities to have a mysterious petroleum substance wash ashore in the form of "tar balls" and "tar patties." The 4-mile stretch from 1st Place through 72nd Place was closed Wednesday to allow crews to clean the beaches.
Residents and visitors were still advised to take extra precaution when walking on the beach or swimming in local waters. Contact with oil tar can cause skin irritation and long-term health effects, according to the fire department statement.
Samples of the substance have been collected for testing, the department said.
Researchers have not yet found a conclusive link between the Refugio State Beach oil spill and the tar balls, but it's looking increasingly likely a spill was the cause. Plains All American Pipeline, owner of the burst pipe in Santa Barbara, has already offered to foot the bill for some of the cleanup further down the coast along beaches in Ventura, Los Angeles and Orange counties.
In addition to beach closures, 138 square miles of fishing grounds have been closed indefinitely off the Southern California coastline, reports Heal the Bay.
As of Thursday, 288 oiled animals had been recovered from the Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County. Of those animals, 123 birds and 65 mammals were dead, reports the Refugio response team.
Fire officials asked any reports of oil debris be directed to the National Response Center (NRC) Hotline at 800-424-8802 and local lifeguards at 562-570-1360. Oiled or injured wildlife should be reported to Long Beach Marine Safety.
In addition to reporting the sightings to the NCR, Heal the Bay is also asking Southern Californians to post photos of oil sightings on local beaches to Instagram with the hashtag #HealTheBay.
Here are a handful of photos it's collected so far. Have you seen blobs of oil on a local beach?
This story has been updated.