Lab tests have confirmed that the large oil sheen discovered off Goleta Beach last Wednesday was caused by natural seepage, U.S. Coast Guard officials announced this morning. The discovery, made by two kayakers who paddled to shore splattered with black and brown crude, prompted fears of another spill so soon after the accidental discharge near Refugio on May 19.
Coast Guard “pollution responders” took samples from the three-square-mile sheen and compared them to tar balls on the beach, as well other possible sources, such as boats in the area and Venoco’s nearby Platform Holly. “The lab results yielded that the sheen was a match to the material sampled from known naturally occurring tar balls sampled,” the Coast Guard said in a prepared statement.
Authorities said the sheen would naturally dissipate and was too thin to skim. They noted thousands of gallons of oil flow from the Coal Oil Point seep field every day. Earth Science professor Jordan Clark at UCSB said its not uncommon for the field to “burp” an unusually large amount from time to time.