Huntington Beach, Calif. – One of the largest oil spills in California history over the weekend closed beaches and continued to threaten wildlife, as officials worked Monday to determine where and why the leak occurred.
An estimated 126,000 gallons of heavy crude oil spilled into Orange County waters late Friday or early Saturday, according to officials. The leak was discovered when sailors began to notice flashes in the water.
NS US Coast Guard Led in response to the spill, which caused a distance of approximately 5.8 nautical miles between the Huntington Beach Pier and Newport Beach.
According to CEO Martin Wilsher, pipelines and operations at three offshore platforms owned by Houston-based Amplify Energy Corp were shut down Saturday night. Wilser said a 17.5-mile pipeline that is 80 to 100 feet below the surface had been pulled out so that no more oil would flow as the location of the leak was being investigated.
But some residents, business owners and environmentalists questioned whether officials reacted well enough to stop the spill, noting how oil slicks and a heavy petroleum smell were seen on Friday evening, but ceased operations until late Saturday. Not done.
Rick Torgson, owner of Blue Star Yachts Charter, said Friday evening, “People were emailing, and neighbors were asking, ‘Do you smell it? By Saturday morning the boats were returning to the marina with their hulls covered with oil, they said.
Gary Brown, president of the environmental group Orange County Coastkeepers, condemned the lack of initial coordination between the Coast Guard and local officials in dealing with the spilling oil spill.
“By the time it gets to the beach, it has already done a lot of damage. Our disappointment is that it could have been avoided if there had been a quicker response,” said Brown, who lives in Huntington Beach.
By Sunday, crews were racing to contain the oil, which will likely wash up ashore for several days and affect Newport Beach and other nearby communities. Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said beaches in the community nicknamed “Surf City” could remain closed for “anywhere from a few weeks to a few months”.
“In a year that has been fraught with incredibly challenging issues, this oil spill is one of the most devastating situations our community has dealt with in decades,” Carr said. “We are doing everything in our power to protect the health and safety of our residents, our visitors and our natural habitats.”
karr described the situation as a “potential ecological disaster”.
The crew, led by skimmers deployed by the Coast Guard, laid about 3,700 feet of floating barriers, known as booms, to try to prevent excess oil from seeping into areas including the Talbert Marsh, a 25-acre wetland. On land, there was also a race to find animals harmed by the oil—which wash ashore in sticky, black globules.
Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley said some birds and fish got trapped in the mud and died. But as of Saturday afternoon, the US Coast Guard said so far there was only one ruddy duck that was covered in oil and receiving veterinary care.
“Other reports of oil-fed wildlife are being investigated,” the Coast Guard said in a statement.
Meanwhile, a petroleum stench spread throughout the area.
“You get the taste in your mouth from the vapor in the air,” Foley said.
Sailors who had caused any oil damage to their craft were told not to clean the boats themselves because they could spill the oil, but were asked to contact county officials who would ask them for possible reimbursement of cleanup expenses. could refer to the appropriate channels.
In addition to closing the beach, the authorities also canceled the last day Annual Pacific Air Show in Huntington Beach Which usually draws thousands of visitors to a city of about 200,000 residents south of Los Angeles. The show featured flyovers by the US Navy Blue Angels and US Air Force Thunderbirds.
The leaking pipeline connects to an oil production platform called Alley, which in turn is linked by a walkway to a drilling platform called Allen. Those two platforms and another nearby platform are in federal waters.
Elly began working in a field called Beta Fields in 1980. Oil extracted from the bottom of the ocean and processed by Alley is transported by pipeline to Long Beach.
Cleanup workers attempt to stop oil, which seeps into Talbert Marsh, home to about 90 bird species, after a 126,000-gallon oil spill from an offshore oil platform in Huntington Beach, Calif., on October 3, 2021. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Rep. Michelle Steele, R-Huntington Beach, sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Sunday requesting a major disaster declaration for Orange County and noting “serious concerns about the environmental impacts of the spill.”
“It is imperative that the federal government aid recovery efforts. Components living along the shoreline are already reporting oil and strong odors on the beach,” Steele wrote, according to Granthshala 11 Los Angeles. “Officials are already responding to protect marine life. Dead fish and birds are already being reported on beaches and shorelines.”
The spill came three decades after a massive oil spill in the same part of the Orange County coast. On February 7, 1990, the oil tanker American Trader passed over its anchorage at Huntington Beach, spilling about 417,000 gallons of crude oil. Fish and about 3,400 birds were killed.
In 2015, a broken pipeline north of Santa Barbara sent 143,000 gallons of crude oil to Refugio State Beach.
The area affected by the latest spill is home to threatened and endangered species, including a plump shorebird called the snowy plover, the California least tern, and the humpback whale.
“The coastal areas of southern California are really rich for wildlife, a major biodiversity hot spot,” said Miyoko Sakashita, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s oceans program.
Environmentalists said the effects of the oil spill are widespread. Sakashita said birds that have oil on their feathers can’t fly, can’t clean themselves, and can’t monitor their temperature. Whales, dolphins and other sea creatures can have trouble breathing or die after swimming through oil or breathing in toxic fumes, he said.
This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.