Florida Fish and Wildlife members spotted small tar balls near Perdido Bay, an island off the western panhandle, on Tuesday afternoon. Now that oil has begun washing up onto the island’s shores, beach-goers are growing wary of going for a swim. The oil washing up in Florida is said to have a “mousse-like” consistency, with the potential to cause health problems. Escambia County has now issued a health alert concerning the oil and signs have been posted warning residents to stay out of the water. The signs, which read “Health Advisory: Public is advised not to swim in these waters due to the presence of oil related chemicals,” were posted along six miles of Florida beaches on Tuesday evening. The “no swim” signs are the first to be posted thus far in the state of Florida.
In addition to concerns about the large quantities of oil washing up all over Lousiana, Alabama and Florida beaches, many are now concerned that underwater oil plumes containing high levels of dissolved hydrocarbons could pose a threat to marine life as far as several hundred miles off shore. Scientists at the University of South Florida expressed concerns regarding these plumes over a week ago and Tuesday, the NOAA verified these claims. But on NBC’s Today Show yesterday morning, Doug Suttles, Chief Operating Officer for BP, disputed claims of underwater oil plumes, saying, “It may be down to how you define what a plume is. … Are there large concentrations of oil under the sea? Those have not been found so far by us or anyone else that’s measured this. The oil that has been found is in very minor quantitites.”