Gulf Oil Spill Starts to Worry New Jersey Beaches

By Brian Thompson
|  Tuesday, May 25, 2010  |  Updated 3:30 PM EDT
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Gulf Oil Spill Starts to Worry New Jersey Beaches

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal pushes a rake through washed up oil and absorbent material as he tours a land bridge built by the Louisiana National Guard to hold back oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in Grand Isle, La., Friday, May 21, 2010.

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The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said it is "improbable" that the BP oil spill will have any effect on the Jersey Shore, but it appears to be taking no chances.

"We are very optimistic the oil will not reach New Jersey and will not affect fishing nor the summer beach season," said Commissioner Bob Martin in a statement.

Nevertheless, the state has mobilized the DEP, State Police, Emergency Management, Homeland Security and others to "put together a plan of action" if there is any impact.

For weeks now, scientists have worried that the Gulf's Loop Current will pick up some of the oil slick and carry it though the Florida Strait and into the Gulf Stream that hugs the coast up to Cape Hatteras, and farther up the coast is still just 80 or 90 miles offshore from New Jersey and New York.

But even if that happens, "it would require a sequence of unlikely events" for the oil to actually come ashore, according to the DEP.

That could, however, include "water currents, depths, temperatures and salinity, plus weather conditions, including potential hurricanes and tropical storms," said the DEP in its release.

The state is using the resources of both Rutgers University and the Stevens Institute of Technology to try to model the spill's movement.

"We are running models every day. Trying to forecast what will happen," according to Josh Kohut, assistant professor of Marine and Coastal Science for the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station at Rutgers.

If the worst were to occur, the DEP projects that the pollution would be in the form of "tar balls, hard-shelled, soft-centered objects." At the earliest, it is projecting late summer for such an event, though again, the DEP calls that 'unlikely.'

Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY

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