Lewes Beach is closed to the public until oil is cleaned from the beach.
City employees will post signs at the entrance of each dune crossover and at the public beaches Oct. 22 and 23 informing the public of the closures. The beach will remain closed until officials from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control advise that they can safely open.
DNREC learned of an oil spill of about 215 gallons in the area of Broadkill Beach Oct. 19. DNREC’s Emergency Response Team worked into the evening to survey impacts and plan for cleanup.
A unified command consisting of the U.S. Coast Guard and DNREC has been established as cleanup efforts continue on oil patties that washed ashore at various locations on the Delaware Bay coastline between Fowler Beach and Cape Henlopen.
Crew members from Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Lewes, DNREC, remediation contractor Lewis Environmental, and Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research are currently on scene conducting cleanup operations, responding to and investigating reports of wildlife impacted by oil, and assessing the oil spill's shoreline and waterway impact. Currently, a team of more than 75 contractors, DNREC responders and Coast Guard personnel is responding to the incident.
The public is advised that due to cleanup operations, the four-wheel-drive surf-fishing crossing at Delaware Beach Plum Island Preserve is closed.
An incident command post has been set up at the Slaughter Beach Volunteer Fire Department in Slaughter Beach.
Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research is assisting, and to date, has responded to reports of 24 oiled seagulls that have been spotted.
Approximately two tons of oily sand and debris had been removed from the affected areas as of Oct. 20.
“We are focused on cleanup operations and getting the oil off our beaches and out of our coastal communities as quickly as possible,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin, who was on scene Oct. 21 surveying affected areas. “Expediency is key. We want to capture as much of the oil as we can before it disperses further and causes more environmental harm. We're thankful for the dedicated staff from our different divisions who rushed into the breach to assist DNREC's Emergency Response and Prevention Section with their cleanup mission. To accomplish it, we have put additional resources into the collaboration with our federal partners the U.S. Coast Guard.”
“The formation of a unified command brings together partner agencies and response organizations to effectively conduct response efforts in an efficient and expeditious manner,” said Lt. Cmdr. Fred Pugh, Coast Guard incident commander. “We are currently working to attempt to identify the source of the oil, and we are continuing to work together to adapt and respond to the dynamic nature of this spill.”
The public is strongly advised to not handle any product found or attempt to assist affected wildlife along the shore; all findings should be reported to DNREC's environmental hotline at 1-800-662-8802.