Mayor: Tests link tar balls on Ala beaches to BP

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (AP) — Tests show the wave of tar balls that hit Alabama's beaches after Tropical Storm Lee was from last year's BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a coastal mayor said Tuesday.

Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon said the connection was found in preliminary tests performed by Auburn University, and additional tests will be conducted.

"We want to find out exactly what we are dealing with," Kennon said.

Tropical Storm Lee dumped tar balls in concentrated areas for miles along the Alabama coast. Some were nearly as large as baseballs and irregularly shaped, leading officials to believe they were broken off from large mats of tar submerged on the Gulf's sandy floor.

BP PLC said its assessments found light to moderate concentrations of tar balls in some areas. Additional cleanup workers were added at the request of area leaders, the company said, and teams will work additional hours to remove the tar balls.

While BP said the crews will perform the cleanup work by hand — last week workers used fish nets to snare the tar balls — officials in Gulf Shores have asked the Coast Guard to approve the use of cleaning machines to prevent the need for deeper cleaning to remove buried tar in the future.

"This is the most reasonable approach to ensuring our beaches are cleaned to the highest level possible at the least cost to everyone involved," said Grant Brown, a spokesman for Gulf Shores.