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Officials say a pipeline leaking thousands of gallons of oil into Southern California waters broke open and apparently dragged along the ocean floor.


Coast Guard Captain Rebecca Ore said on Tuesday that divers determined about 4,000 feet (1,219 m) of pipeline was “later displaced” about 105 feet (32 m). He did not specify what could have caused the displacement.

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Officials said Monday they are looking into whether a ship’s anchorage may have caused an oil spill that contaminated beaches in Orange County. There was no confirmation on Tuesday that the leak was caused by an anchor.

Ore said there was a 13-inch wound in the pipeline.

FILE – A Patriot Environmental Services crew engages in cleaning up massive oil residue off Orange County along the coastline in Huntington Beach, Calif., Tuesday, October 5, 2021.

related: California oil spill: 4,000-foot section of pipeline split, dragged 105 feet out of place

An official told the Associated Press on Tuesday that according to earlier reports, the Coast Guard did not investigate preliminary reports of the oil spill for nearly 12 hours because it did not have enough corroborative evidence and was suffering from darkness and a lack of technology. was interrupted.

Rear Admiral Brian Penoir acknowledged that the Coast Guard was alerted Friday night by a “Good Samaritan” that there was a glare on the water. It made a broadcast seeking further information for several cargo and tanker ships anchored from the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, but no supporting reports were received.

Pennoyer said reports of flashes are common near the busy port. It would take more than 12 hours for an oil pipeline company to report a 126,000 gallon (572,807 litre) heavy crude oil spill.

“After all, it seems obvious, but they didn’t know at the time,” Penauer said. “So to put themselves in a position they knew, it’s a very normal process.”

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Officials on Tuesday imposed more restrictions on Southern California beaches in response to a major oil spill, while more questions emerged about whether the crash was reported to the Coast Guard and other officials.

Signs were posted on the famous Huntington Beach announcing that the beach was open but the sea and shore were closed. On a normal day, surfers would usually be seen lounging in the waves, but not now. Huntington State Beach still had an oily smell, though it was less severe than the stench emanating from the water on Sunday.

Elsewhere, Orange County officials closed Dana Point Harbor and a beach for young children. Those closures are in addition to the other Dana Point beaches and all the beaches in Laguna Beach.

The sanctions were announced a day after the Associated Press reviewed reports of an oil spill, which raised questions about the Coast Guard’s response to one of the state’s biggest recent spills and the operation of three offshore platforms and pipelines. How soon was the company doing it recognized Amplify Energy. A problem and notified authorities.

related: Suspected company had dozens of breaches in Huntington Beach oil spill

The Coast Guard received its first reports of a potential oil spill more than 12 hours ago, after the company reported a major leak in its pipeline and launched a cleanup effort, records show.

The two initial calls about the spill came to the National Response Center, which is staffed by the Coast Guard and notifies other agencies of disasters for a quick response. The first was from an anchored ship that saw a glow on the water. The second came six hours later from a federal agency that said a possible oil slick had been seen on satellite imagery, reports the California Office of Emergency Services.

Up to 126,000 gallons (572,807 litres) of heavy crude spilled into the sea from Huntington Beach, and it was then washed up onto beaches and a protected marshland. Beaches could remain closed for weeks or longer, a huge hit to the local economy. Coastal fisheries in the area are closed to commercial and recreational fishing.

Federal and state authorities require prompt reporting of spills. Failure to do so has led to criminal prosecutions against companies including the Plains All American Pipeline, which caused a coastal leak near Santa Barbara in 2015, and the Southern California Gas Company to a massive well later that year. was blown up.

related: California oil spill: Wetlands could face ‘ecological disaster’ from pipeline failure

Meanwhile, Coast Guard officials said on Monday that investigators are investigating whether a ship’s anchor may have hit a pipeline on the ocean floor.

Amplify Energy CEO Martin Wilser said the company’s divers were inspecting the area of ​​the suspected leak reported on Saturday, and they hope to have a clearer picture of what caused the damage by Tuesday. Wilser said an anchor from a cargo ship hitting a pipeline is “one of the typical possibilities” behind the leak.

Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley expressed concern that the company may withhold evidence. But the county’s emergency manager, Michelle Anderson, reassured the board of supervisors on Tuesday that the Coast Guard was on the scene to make sure the investigation was independent.

“This is an investigation that involves objective parties, so that we can finally know the outcome,” Anderson said.

related: Beaches closed as crews attempt to clear the shoreline

Cargo ships entering the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach regularly pass through the area. Backlogs have plagued the ports in recent months, and several dozen or more huge ships are routinely anchored as they wait to enter and disembark at ports.

Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander. Jenny Shay said the Coast Guard was not notified of the disaster until Saturday morning, although records show its Dangerous Spill Response Hotline received its first reports of potential oil spills Friday evening.

According to the state report, a foreign ship anchored off the coast noticed an “unknown glow in the waters near its ship” at 6:13 pm and the report was called to the response center after 8:22 pm.

Lonnie Harrison Jr., vice president of Colonial Compliance Systems Inc., which works with foreign vessels in US waters to report the spill, said one of its customers reported the sighting.

related: Photos: Massive oil spill off California coast shows impact on wildlife, beach communities

Harrison, a retired Coast Guard captain, said the ship was not involved in the spill and later over the weekend it was cleared to enter port for refueling, after determining it was not contaminated with slick.

About six hours after the first reports were received, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that satellite imagery showed a potential oil crust more than 3 miles (5 kilometers) long. The National Response Center report said the image of a “potential oil anomaly” was probably linked to the first report.

“Although there were several ships in the immediate vicinity of the anomaly, none were clearly linked to the anomaly,” the report said. “These factors prevented the possible identification of a point source.”

The company operating the pipeline first reported the leak to the Coast Guard response center at 8:55 a.m. Saturday. However, the report states that the incident took place at 2:30 pm

related: Birds, wetland wildlife bear brunt of California oil spill

A 2016 spill response plan for Amplify platforms submitted to federal regulators called for immediate notification of federal officials when more than a barrel of oil has been released into the water. The release of more than five barrels — or one that threatens state waters or shorelines — requires immediate notification from state fire marshals and California wildlife officials.

The pipeline was to be monitored under an automated leak detection system that would report problems to the control room operating round-the-clock at the oil platform called Ely.

The system was designed to trigger an alarm whenever a change in oil flow is detected. But how fast it can pick up those changes was expected to vary according to the size of the leak. For a large leak – 10% or more of the amount of oil flowing through the pipeline – the detection time was estimated at five minutes. According to the response plan, it was expected to take up to 50 minutes to detect the small leak.

The spill plan warned that a break in the pipeline could cause “significant damage to the environment” and in a worst-case scenario 3,111 barrels (131,000 gallons) of oil could be released from the pipeline.

related: California oil spill: Newsom issues state of emergency to provide federal aid in response

Wilser said essential agencies were notified “immediately” when the company believed the leak was from its pipes. Records show the spill was not reported by Amplify Energy, but by Witt O’Brien, a crisis and emergency management firm listed on the spill response plan as the point of contact to inform the NRC.

The report said the leaking pipe had been sealed, but the containment was not confirmed.

Officials said a possible criminal investigation is being conducted by the Orange County District Attorney, the US Department of Justice, the Coast Guard and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Safety advocates have pushed for years for federal regulations that would strengthen oil spill detection requirements and force companies to install valves that can automatically shut off the flow of crude oil in case of a leak. . The oil and pipeline industries have resisted such requirements because of the high cost.


Associated Press writers Christopher Weber in Los Angeles, Michael Bisker in Washington, Bernard Condon in New York and Amy Taxin in Huntington Beach, California contributed to this report. Storyful contributed to this report.