Tourist says she found what looks to be a tar ball - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Tourist says she found what looks to be a tar ball

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

By Jessica Bowman – email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - When Diane Harris of Waynesboro came down to the Biloxi beach for a vacation all she expected to find was some relaxation, but what she discovered has certainly put a damper on her day.

Between two main attractions in Biloxi, the historic lighthouse and the Beau Rivage Casino, Wayne County tax preparer Diane Harris said she discovered what appeared to be a tar ball sitting in the sand. If it is, it could be the first sign of oil reaching the Mississippi shorelines.

Diane Harris said, "I was walking along the shoreline Wednesday night, and I looked down and saw this shiny black object. It had a sheen over it, and I picked it up, momentarily. And I could smell the oil, and I knew it had to come from the spill."

As Harris holds the object, you can see the size of it compared to the palm of her hand. In stead of it being in the shape of a ball it's flat, kind of like a pancake.

"It feels smooth and mushy not hard like a rock. When you touch it, the oil comes off on your fingers, and it smells like tar on a highway," said Diane Harris.

Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality officials said finding tar balls is not uncommon on northern Gulf beaches and may result from oil spills or natural seepages on the Gulf floor. They say there are other things on the beach that could be mistaken for tar balls, as well. Harris said she may not live on the coast, but she has a personal tie to this disaster.

"Some of my clients were actually on the rig, and it was just really devastating. I thought I better come down and take a look at our beaches before we could possible lose them," said Diane Harris.

MDEQ officials said objects that appear to be tar balls have been found on several beaches. Officials said those objects are being sent to Unified Command to be confirmed.

MDEQ is advising people that if you see what you believe to be a tar ball, do not touch it. You can call 1-866-448-5816 to report the location of the tar ball.

However, Harris said, despite warnings, there's no chance of her turning this into officials. She said she will send it to her grandchildren in Alabama, so they can do a school project about it.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly