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Massive tar mat dug up off Louisiana coast, 3 years after Gulf spill

By Matt Smith, CNN
updated 10:09 AM EDT, Wed June 26, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The slab of weathered crude and sand was more than 160 feet long
  • Most of its 40,000-plus pounds was sand and water, a Coast Guard official says
  • Louisiana is the last state where Deepwater Horizon cleanup continues

(CNN) -- Three years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, workers have dug up a massive chunk of weathered crude from the shallows off a Louisiana beach.

The tar mat, a slab of oil residue mixed with wet sand, was about 165 feet long by 65 feet wide, said Lt. Cmdr. Natalie Murphy, a Coast Guard spokeswoman. It weighed more than 40,000 pounds, but more than 85% of that weight was sand, shells and water, she said.

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Melanie and Philip Martinez Sr. have dinner in daughter Kala's one-bedroom apartment on Saturday, September 8, in Chalmette, Louisiana. Melanie, along with her husband and mother, are staying in Kala's apartment after their home in Braithwaite flooded during Hurricane Isaac. It was the fifth home Martinez has lost to hurricanes in Louisiana. Melanie and Philip Martinez Sr. have dinner in daughter Kala's one-bedroom apartment on Saturday, September 8, in Chalmette, Louisiana. Melanie, along with her husband and mother, are staying in Kala's apartment after their home in Braithwaite flooded during Hurricane Isaac. It was the fifth home Martinez has lost to hurricanes in Louisiana.
Isaac's trail of destruction
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Isaac\'s trail of destruction Isaac's trail of destruction

The mat was found under the surf off Isle Grand Terre, Louisiana, about 90 miles south of New Orleans. Crews using an excavator dug the largely submerged tar mat out of the beach in chunks over the last few weeks, Murphy said.

Empty nets in Louisiana three years after the spill

Louisiana is the last state where regular cleanup operations from the oil spill are still under way. The Coast Guard and BP, the owner of the ruptured well at the heart of the disaster, declared the cleanup over in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi earlier this month, but more than 80 miles of the Louisiana coast are still being patrolled.

Coast Guard, BP end Gulf cleanup in 3 states

BP has recovered more than 2.7 million pounds of waste from Louisiana shores in 2013, with residual oil making up between 5 and 15% of that total weight, company spokesman Jason Ryan told CNN.

The drill rig Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank in April 2010, killing 11 men aboard and unleashing an undersea gusher a mile beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. Most of the oil is believed to have evaporated or been consumed by microbes deep under water. But a still-undetermined portion settled to the floor of the Gulf, and some of it was stirred up and washed back ashore after Hurricane Isaac in 2012.

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