Beaches open, but advisories issued as tar balls, tar mats come ashore

Beaches in Biloxi and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast remain open, but the state has issued swimming advisories after tar balls and tar mats began washing ashore today.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Marine Resources and the state Department of Health are advising beachgoers to be aware of their surroundings, avoid contact with oil-related materials, and stay out of the water if these materials are visible.

Meanwhile, Mayor A.J. Holloway — who on Tuesday morning will be welcoming one of the Coast’s largest annual conventions to town, the Mississippi Municipal League — said he was disappointed that more efforts were not made to fight the oil at the barrier islands, 12 miles offshore.

“We don’t feel as if we’re any better or worse than any of the other cities impacted in Louisiana or Alabama or Florida,” the mayor said. “The difference between Mississippi and other areas is that this is Day 1 for us. BP had two months to get the resources in place here in Mississippi. Unfortunately, they have failed to effectively do that, and now we’re seeing oil on our beaches.”

The state issued an advisory for a small stretch of beach in Biloxi — from Miramar Avenue to Veterans Avenue in west Biloxi. The rest of the 8.4 miles of beach in Biloxi remains open.

Over the past several weeks, the city has continued to work its response along two avenues: To advise BP and the Unified Command on what defensive efforts should be taken off the Biloxi shore, such as ocean booms and skimmers; and to seek approval to hire an oil-remediation firm to work directly for the city.

On Wednesday the city will receive proposals from as many as a dozen firms that have been reviewing the city’s request for proposals that was advertised on June 17.

“On June 17, we had also asked for approval of funding to hire a firm that would oversee this for the city,” Holloway said, “much the same way we had a debris firm in place before, during and after Katrina. We’ll again be pressing for approval of that funding on Wednesday, when we get these proposals in hand and we identify the best contractor or contactors.

“We still want and need protective measures along the bay and at our harbors,” the mayor said. “It’s a shame it hasn’t been done yet, but it’s not too late, and it’s not as if the threat is going way, unfortunately. This is only Day 1.”

More online

RFP deadline: Firms with experience in dealing with oil pollution and shoreline protection have until 10 a.m. on June 30 to present their proposals to the city. To read the city’s Request for Proposals and to see the specs for a proposed contract, click here.

What was seen today and where: To see the latest report from the state on what was found onshore today and where, click here.

The beach monitoring system: You can learn more about the Mississippi Beach Monitoring Program and see current advisories by clicking here.

More spill info: The city’s online spill info center has the latest on the spill, including the city’s plans, how to volunteer, animated path since April 21, and air quality monitoring data. To go there now, click here.