As the summer season kicks off this weekend, Florida dive operators say, "The pool's open!" With the three-day Memorial Day weekend coming up, Florida dive operators, resorts and hotels want divers to know that the water off the Sunshine State's 1,197-statute mile-long coastline including the Panhandle, West Coast, Florida Keys and East Coast are unaffected by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. "Our Florida beaches are clean and clear and the Sunshine State, including Northwest Florida, are open for business," Gov. Charlie Crist said. U.S. Coast Guard Key West Sector Captain Pat DeQuattro confirmed Wednesday morning that tests on tar balls found Monday and Tuesday on Key West's Fort Zachary Taylor State Park beach and other areas of the Lower Keys are not from the Transocean/BP oil spill in the northern Gulf of Mexico. A sampling of tar balls discovered on beaches at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, Smathers Beach in Key West, Big Pine Key, Fla., and Loggerhead Key in the Dry Tortugas National Park, Fla. were flown by the Coast Guard to New London, Conn., Tuesday for testing and analysis. "The results of those tests conclusively show that the tar balls collected from Florida Keys beaches do not match the type of oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico," according to a Coast Guard-issued news release. "The source of the tar balls remains unknown at this time." Meanwhile, as of late Tuesday satellite imagery indicated the bulk of the oil remains dozens of miles away from the Loop Current. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is conducting aerial observations to ascertain whether the oil actually has entered the Loop Current. In the time it would take for oil to travel to the vicinity of the Loop Current, it would be highly weathered and the natural processes of evaporation and dispersion would reduce the oil volume significantly, NOAA said. The Florida Keys tourism council is updating its oil spill website page daily at www.fla-keys.com.
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