MANHATTAN BEACH (CBSLA.com) — Cleanup efforts continued Thursday to remove a petroleum-based substance that washed ashore several beaches near The Strand.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, globs of what appeared to be oil were reported along the 2200 block of The Strand just after 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

About 40 people worked throughout the night to remove tar balls and tar caddies, which range in size from a golf ball to softball, that washed ashore.

Authorities have subsequently closed a 6.5-mile stretch of the shoreline from the El Segundo jetty to the Torrance/Redondo Beach border, as a precaution.

Officials told CBS2’s Jeff Nguyen that about 30 cubic yards of the tar balls and patties have been scooped up.

KNX1070’s Pete Demetriou reported crews were seen shortly after 5 a.m. cleaning up a tar substance on beaches that are south of 34th Street.

Residents have been asked to avoid water contact from 34th Street in Manhattan Beach south to Longfellow Avenue in Hermosa Beach.

Officials said an overflight search did not locate a sheen nor the source of the oil.

A pollution-investigation team was called in to assist with cleanup efforts along the shoreline. Samples of the oil were collected, and were then sent to a lab to be analyzed.

“What we’re doing is taking the samples, making sure there is a chain of custody, and taking them to a lab that will scientifically analyze them,” said Saul Garcia, of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “It’s up to the scientists to read the data, and be able to tell us where this oil is from by referencing a database they have from natural seepage or from local oil.”

Officials with the Department of Public Health said they are testing for bacterial contamination in the water, which will determine how long the beaches will remain closed.

The source of the spill remains unknown. At this time, officials have confirmed the product is not natural seepage, however, they expect it to take a few days for results of the samples to be returned.

There have been no reports of sick wildlife in the area.

During a news conference at 8 a.m., members of the Coast Guard explained the cause of the tarballs remains under investigation.

Cleanup efforts are being funded by the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. Efforts are expected to last up to five to seven days, authorities said.

The situation has prevented Samantha Loverang and Karen Wolcott from going into the water at Manhattan Beach for a second day.

The visitors from New York were here yesterday when they told Nguyen they got an unwelcome surprise.

“We were sunbathing and then we went in the water and she saw chunks of black sludge all over the place,” said Wolcott.

There were plans underway to try to reopen some of the beaches Friday morning but the Coast Guard announced on Thursday evening the clean up would take longer than expected.

The investigation is being handled as a joint effort between the Coast Guard, L.A. County Fire Department Lifeguards, and the Department of Fish & Wildlife.

Anyone who may encounter injured wildlife in the area is urged to call (877) 623-6926.

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