Auburn civil engineers release findings on tar balls from Tropical Storm Lee

AUBURN – Auburn University civil engineering faculty members have completed a preliminary study related to tar balls found on Alabama’s beaches after Tropical Storm Lee.

Prabhakar Clement, Feagin professor, Joel Hayworth, associate research professor and Vanisree Mulabagal, research associate, of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, found that the chemical signature of tar mat fragments that appeared on Alabama’s beaches after Tropical Storm Lee in early September, is essentially the same as that of the oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon event that impacted Alabama’s beaches in June 2010.

The study also indicates that oil submerged offshore has not substantially changed, from a chemical perspective, from that of the oil which arrived on the beach more than a year prior. It shows that the tar mat samples are indeed related to the BP Deepwater Horizon event. Submerged oil may continue to pose some level of long-term risk to near-shore ecosystems.

View the team’s study at

Contact: Morgan Stashick, (334) 844-3591 (, or
Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999 (