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State of Beach Report

Surfrider Foundation Emerald Coast Chapter Continues to Lead “Local” Efforts to Test for Oil and Dispersants in the Gulf and on the Beach

Current government Gulf oil disaster testing programs are not providing enough reliable information for the public to make educated decisions about the safety of their beaches. During and since the disaster, local surfers and swimmers have suffered from burning eyes and mouths and developed rashes among other problems.  Children continue to dig through layers of dispersed oil while playing on many beaches. Oil pollution in Gulf waters is a moving target and remains difficult to detect, though many scientists believe much of the BP oil is still present in the Gulf. Furthermore, many new oil spills have occurred in the Gulf  since the Deep Water Horizon burned and sank.  Understandably, the public still has concerns over which beaches are safe.

Surfrider’s  “State of the Beach” testing program provides an independent and trustworty source of information that may confirm, or contradict current agency testing results regarding the presence or absence of oil and dispersants in coastal waters and on local beaches. The Emerald Coast Chapter has now moved into Phase II of its oil testing on Gulf Coast beaches. The current testing first uses special UV lighting to detect the dispersed oil in the sand making it show up bright orange ( “Clean” sand shows a plain purple UV light color).



VIDEOS/INTERVIEWS - previous testing videos, personal interviews, and photos.


Watch this video to see how sand can look “clean” to the regular eye, but under UV it has been missed by BP.

 Related Oil and Dispersant Research Links - Latest research from labs around the country.


Donate Now!
The Emerald Coast Chapter has a dedicated bank account solely for purposes of testing activities. A test at one location costs over $200. One day of sampling frequently exceeds $1000.  Every bit helps. Click HERE to donate!



This program is the only opportunity available for the public to directly help in the oil disaster response effort. This monthly program allows you to come out and volunteer at the designated “beach of the month” and assist in our sample collection. Surfrider chapter leaders and  coastal geologist Rip Kirby will teach you about the layers of dispersed oil that are being found on our beaches.

Each event  includes the digging sand trenches (swash zone, mid-beach, dune base area) to see if oil and dispersants are present. If they are present, we can determine how deep and thick these veins of pollution are. (In our initial samplings, we have found layers of heavily contaminated sand up to 3 feet in depth. This was largely due to the sifting process BP workers have been performing on the beach. )

Once the samples are collected they are then sent to the lab for testing. Using GC/MS analysis, we can show the level of contamination and identify the specific toxic substances. We can then compare the results to the profile of historical sand samples USF has from a 2008 study. In addition to being able to alert the community and media that there is still oil on our beaches, the long-term study effort done by Surfrider and Rip Kirby is using the data to identify the sulfur isotope of corexit mixed with the oil. This data can be published and could prove very valuable in future spill responses.

Would you like see what its all about before attending? Watch this video presentation.


How has the Surfrider testing program been improved since the summer of 2010?

1. Increased accuracy in the identification of oil and dispersant pollution

2. Provides public participation with a hands-on opportunity and education.

3. Contributes long-term study results that could be used in future spill responses.

4. Improved results turn around speed makes public notification more timely.



We are greatful to the following donors:





View Emerald Coast Sampling Locations in a larger map

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