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Originally published Wednesday, July 7, 2010 at 5:13 PM

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Texas tar ball prompts soil, water sampling

Texas officials on Wednesday continued collecting soil and water samples along the state's coastline, part of their response plan after this week's confirmation that crude from the Gulf oil spill has made its way onto the state's shores.

Associated Press Writer

GALVESTON, Texas —

Texas officials on Wednesday continued collecting soil and water samples along the state's coastline, part of their response plan after this week's confirmation that crude from the Gulf oil spill has made its way onto the state's shores.

Biologists with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are collecting the samples to give them a data baseline they will use to assess the spill's effect on Texas if more tar balls and oil are found.

The sample collection began Monday after officials announced that test results confirmed tar balls found over the weekend along the Texas Gulf Coast were from the BP oil spill, said Winston Denton, a biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

On Wednesday, Denton and other biologists wearing waders and rubber gloves gathered samples of dirt, water and various invertebrate animals such as mollusks at two Galveston beaches. The samples, placed in brown jars and plastic bags, will be sent to private labs for testing.

The data obtained will be used to develop plans "to minimize the impact on wildlife" should more oil hit the Texas shoreline, Denton said.

Samples are being collected over the next two weeks from Port Arthur near the Louisiana border to Port Isabel in south Texas, said Mike Cox, a spokesman for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Texas officials continue waiting for test results of samples from five ships that hauled waste from the oil spill to the Galveston area. The results could determine whether the ships are the sources of the tar balls found in Galveston and the Bolivar Peninsula or if they came naturally on currents.

Officials have said the consistency and light weathering of the tar balls seems to indicate the oil might have hitched a ride on a ship that worked in the spill.

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Richard Brahm said an additional 3.5 gallons of tar balls had been found on Galveston and Bolivar since late Tuesday. They were being tested to determine their origin.

Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski on Wednesday continued promoting the message that despite the discovery of tar balls "all 32 miles of Galveston's beaches are clean, safe, open and awaiting summer tourists." Tourism is one of the major sources of revenue for Galveston's economy.

BP spokesman Daren Beaudo said the British oil company is reviewing a request from Texas to provide $25 million to pay for the cleanup efforts.

"Ultimately we are responsible for the clean up and we will take care of any materials that will happen to impact Texas," he said.

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