By Jemima Kelly
NEW ORLEANS, Oct 18 (Reuters) - The amount of oil found on Louisiana's coast has surged this year, three years after BP's Macondo spill in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, the state's Coastal Protection & Restoration Authority said.
In the first eight months of this year, some 3.01 million pounds of "oily material" were cleaned up on Louisiana's coast, up from 119,894 pounds in the same period last year, according to a report posted on the web site of the state's Department of Natural Resources.
The report did not say why there was a more than 20-fold increase in the amount of oil collected this year, or if Tropical Storm Karen washed away sand to expose oil already on beaches. Some of the oil, especially so-called tar balls, apparently washed ashore after Karen hit the Gulf earlier this month.
The report said more than 200 miles of Lousiana shoreline still display some degree of oil pollution after the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
"The conventional wisdom would be that the number (of pounds of oily materials collected) should go down, obviously. But if the response effort was insufficient ... I think the numbers speak for themselves," Garret Graves, the chairman of the authority told Reuters late on Thursday.
BP said that some of the oil on the shore could have come from natural seeps on the seafloor.
"Laboratory tests conducted by both the Coast Guard and BP on multiple tar ball samples recovered from Grand Isle (Louisiana) in September confirmed that not all tar balls in the area are associated with the (Macondo) accident," BP spokesman Jason Ryan said.
"Following Karen, 158 pounds of tar balls were recovered on Grand Isle from Monday Oct. 7 through Monday Oct. 14," he added.
The coastal authority represents several public agencies and helps coordinate BP's restoration work.
This month in New Orleans, lawyers for BP and the federal government have tussled in court over how much oil spilled during the 87 days it took before workers were able to cap the well mishap that killed 11 men.
U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier is expected to decide early next year how much BP should be fined under the Clean Water Act for the spill.
The government has told the court that some 4.9 million barrels spilled. BP has estimated just 3.26 million barrels escaped into the sea. Both sides have acknowledged that 810,000 barrels of oil collected in cleanup will be excluded from the final amount.