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55 tons of oily sand and debris removed from Delaware beaches

The area of the Delaware shoreline affected by an oil spill now stretches from the north side of the Indian River Inlet to Slaughter Beach.

One week after oil from an unknown source first turned up on Broadkill Beach, cleanup crews have collected about 55 tons of oily sand and debris from the Delaware coastline — enough to fill four construction dumpsters, the U.S. Coast Guard announced Monday.

More than 100 people from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Coast Guard have been working to clean the beaches over most of last week. 

Cleanup ramped up over the weekend, with the amount of debris removed from the beaches nearly doubling on Sunday; about 30 tons had been cleaned up by the end of the day Saturday, according to DNREC, and the amount recovered reached 55 tons by Sunday afternoon, according to the Coast Guard.

“The job of removing oil from our beaches is challenging and labor-intensive, but we’re making progress,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin in a statement. “Our teams are getting more and more of it off our beaches every hour, every day.”

Delaware Gov. John Carney visited an incident command post at Slaughter Beach on Friday.

"Delaware’s waterways are critically important to our communities and our quality of life as Delawareans," Carney said in a Facebook post. "And they are a driver of our coastal economy from fishing to boating and recreation. We have an obligation to protect those natural resources."

Nearly 70 oiled birds have so far been reported to the Newark-based Tri-State Bird Rescue, which has been on scene to clean and treat wildlife, according to the Coast Guard.

Lewes and Dewey beaches remain closed as the coin-sized tar balls continue to wash up. Other beach towns, like Rehoboth, have opted to keep the beaches open.

DNREC encourages the public to watch where they walk at the beach and to avoid contact with the oil.

More on the Delaware oil spill

Oil contains hazardous chemicals. Though brief contact with small amounts isn't usually dangerous, rashes or allergic reactions can occur, DNREC warned. If you come into contact with oil, use soap and water to remove it. Baby oil also works. 

The source of the oil spill is yet to be determined, with the Coast Guard analyzing the chemical "fingerprint" of the oil to assist in finding the culprit. It was described by DNREC Emergency Response as a “heavy fuel oil,” likely leaking from an operating vessel, not crude oil from the hold of a tanker.

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