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Gulf oil spill: Tar balls wash up on Dauphin Island off Alabama

May 9, 2010 |  7:18 am

Tar The Coast Guard said Saturday that tar balls were beginning to wash up on Alabama’s Dauphin Island, a Gulf Coast playground three miles south of Mobile Bay.

If the black gobs prove to be oil, it would be the eastern-most landfall from the BP oil slick, which, so far, has proved to be more of a threat to Louisiana and Mississippi.

Officials said half a dozen balls had been found by midday and were being analyzed but were believed to be part of the oil spill.

Town officials closed off the western half of the island to residents only last week, part of the region’s effort to prepare for the arrival of the oil slick. The Alabama National Guard worked in the Mississippi Sound, placing fabric barriers and orange booms, floated offshore.

The 1 1⁄2-mile-wide island is prized by residents of the region for its sunshine and white-sand beaches, which are fronted by condo towers and beach rentals. Last week, residents organized beach patrols to clear the sand of trash.

Dauphin Island is part of a chain of barrier islands that stretches across the Gulf of Mexico from Louisiana to Florida. The 14-mile-long spit is the only one of the islands not part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, operated by the National Park Service.

-- Julie Cart

Photo: A small tar ball from the gulf oil spill lies on the beach at Dauphin Island on May 9. Credit: Dan Anderson / European Pressphoto Agency