SAN DIEGO - A common nuisance for North County beach goers is back, globs of black tar are washing up on San Diego shores.
“It’s kind of like gum all over the beach, but inside of the gum, it’s oily,” surfer Cody Rush said before paddling out at Scripps Pier.
The same type of tar used to pave roads washes up on the sand from La Jolla Shores to Black's Beach and farther north, but it is unclear where it comes from.
Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography cite three possible sources of the tar balls.
The petroleum could be coming from leaks in capped oil wells near Oceanside, or a ship may have spilled fuel, but it’s more likely that it comes from a natural spring.
“It’s like a spring, except instead of a spring of water, there’s a place where there’s petroleum in the sea bed,” Marine Geology Professor Peter Lonsdale said. “[The petroleum] seeps out of the sea floor, sometimes it roars out at high speed.”
Those types of springs are common near the Santa Barbara channel, and there may be one just six miles off the coast of La Jolla.
Even if the tar is natural you want to avoid direct contact with it.
'"There are some fairly nasty chemicals in the petroleum,” Lonsdale said. “You don`t want to pick it up and play with it. It's best to just pass on by.”
Researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a team of grad students are planning on taking a special underwater robot just off the shore to take samples of the seep.
While scientists search for the source of the tar, surfers like Rush say it’s not keeping them off the beach, even if they have to watch where they step.