Oil Spill Reaches Florida: Tar Balls Found in Key West?

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A man holds a clump to determine if it is oil from the spill in the Gulf of Mexico on Elmer's Island, Louisiana on May 13, 2010.

REUTERS / Lee Celano

Even as there have been glimmers of good news on the Gulf oil spill front – BP, which says the spill has cost the company more than $600 million, now says they are successfully siphoning some of the oil from the spill zone – the bad headlines continue to roll in.

Late Monday, the U.S. Coast Guard said that rangers in Florida’s Fort Zachary Taylor State Park on the pristine island of Key West had reported seeing tar balls wash up with the tide. And while the quantity of oil may still be insignificant, the psychological impact is immense: The oil, released in the middle of the Gulf, has now apparently made its way to Florida. And this report immediately renewed concerns about the oil slipping into the currents that could pummel Florida with crude, before whisking the black mass into the Atlantic Ocean.

These concerns about currents come in the wake of recent discoveries of 10-mile-long oil plumes amassing underwater. “There’s a whole bunch of oil moving around in the system and nobody knows where it will wind up,” Ray Highsmith, the executive director of the Institute studying the spill, told TIME on Sunday. Monday’s news from Key West confirms that at least one place the oil will wind up is Florida.

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