A pollution incident that has seen an oil-type substance wash up on beaches across the Fylde coast is on a ‘much bigger scale than first thought’, officials have said.
Black globules were seen in the tide and on the sand between Red Bank Road and the Norbreck Castle in Bispham yesterday, and have since been spotted as far north as Cleveleys, Fleetwood, Knott End, and the River Wyre, and as far south as North Pier.
Samples of the thick gunk – which stinks of diesel-like fuel – has been collected by Coastguard officers and sent off for assessment by counter-pollution experts in Edinburgh.
A clean-up operation has also been launched as investigators work to find out exactly where the material has come from.
James McGawley said he was on the beach with his kite buggy when he wondered what the ‘strong diesel smell was’.
He took pictures yesterday, which he forwarded to The Gazette, and said: “I go through the edge of the sea, up and down from North Pier to the new pipeline at Cleveleys where it’s all blocked off.
“There were black blobs all the way down there. It’s stuck to my wheels of my buggy, and it smells of diesel.”
Paul Little, station officer at Lytham Coastguard, has warned dog walkers and beach-goers not to touch the substance.
He said: “We had latex gloves on and it collapsed it our hands like a lump of grease.
“I could smell the fuel oil smell on my boots.”
Mr Little had earlier described the spill as a ‘small problem’ when it had only been reported at Bispham, where there were also ‘three or four’ larger lumps of substance.
But another official later said: “It’s widespread. It’s on a much bigger scale than first thought.”
Senior staff at Blackpool and Wyre Council are understood to have been briefed over the situation this afternoon, while specialists have been drafted in to clear up the mess.
A spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said it had ‘been made aware of spots of what appears to be heavy oil and tar balls being washed up’, and said experts were working with a number of different departments.
“Samples of the oil are being sent for tests to see if the source can be identified,” he said. “Braemar Response are on the scene and are working to remove pollutants from the beach.”
They include a counter-pollution team, local authorities, the Environment Agency, Natural England, the Joint Nature Conservancy Committee, the Marine Management Organisation, and the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning.