DNREC continues to assess, clean up oil spill at Broadkill, southern Delaware beaches

October 20, 2020

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control continues to work to assess and clean up an oil spill that came ashore Oct. 19 at Broadkill Beach. The spill has now affected several more coastal locations, including Beach Plum Island near Cape Henlopen, Roosevelt Inlet and Lewes Beach. 

Some oil that had been carried out into Delaware Bay by high tide last night, Oct. 19, dispersed elsewhere today along the coast. DNREC and the U.S. Coast Guard deployed environmental contractors in the Broadkill area to clean up as much oil as possible before another tide carried more oil out into Delaware Bay.

DNREC officials said the Oct. 19 estimate of five barrels spilled may grow, but there is no further estimate on the spill’s size at this time. The source for the oil has not been determined, and the cleanup is expected to take several more days, as globs and pools of oil must be removed manually from beaches. DNREC Emergency Response has not reported or sighted any impact to wildlife. 

While the source of the spill is still unknown, DNREC provided oil samples to the U.S. Coast Guard to be analyzed for a petroleum fingerprint that might determine its origin. Oil 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.

The spill, which spanned three-quarters of a mile of upper Delaware Bay coastline last evening, was estimated this morning to have spread to up to seven miles of beach. DNREC officials noted the tide had fragmented the oil from larger pooling to smaller-size speckling on the beaches. DNREC’s Emergency Response Team environmental staff gauged the size of the spill Oct. 19, after collaborating with Delaware State Police’s Aviation Unit on a reconnaissance flight over the upper bay.

This is a developing story, and will be updated as more information is provided.

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