Huntington Beach, Calif. – Crews on the water and on shore worked feverishly Sunday to limit environmental damage from one of the largest oil spills in recent California history, caused by a suspected leak in an underwater pipeline, Which blew away the sands of the famous Huntington Beach and could keep the beaches. There it was closed for weeks or more.
Booms were deployed on the surface of the sea to try to contain the oil, while divers tried to determine where and why the leak occurred. On land, there was a race to find the oil-damaged animals and prevent them from harming any more sensitive marshlands.
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An estimated 572,807 liters of heavy crude leaked into Orange County waters late Friday or early Saturday, when sailors reported flashes in the water, officials said. Pipelines and operations at three off-shore platforms owned by Houston-based Amplify Energy Corp were shut down Saturday night, CEO Martin Wilser said.
He said a 28.16 km pipeline which is 24 to 30 meters below the surface has been pulled out so that no more oil spills as the leak site is being investigated.
Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said beaches in the community nicknamed “Surf City” could remain closed for weeks or even months. Oil sparkled a mile wide in the sea and washed ashore in sticky, dark globules.
“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.”
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.
Crews led by Coast Guard-deployed skimmers laid about 1,128 meters of floating barriers, known as booms, to try to prevent more oil from seeping into areas including Talbert Marsh, a 10-hectare wetland, officials said. said.
The smell of petroleum spread in the air all over the area.
“You get the taste in your mouth from the vapor in the air,” Foley said.
Officials said the oil would continue to wash off the coast for several days and affect Newport Beach and other nearby communities.
The closure included Huntington Beach approximately 9.6 kilometers south of the city’s northern edge to the Santa Ana River Wharf. The shutdown came in the middle of the summer season, which would have brought in large crowds for volleyball, swimming and surfing. Yellow caution tape was tied between the lifeguard towers to keep people away.
Officials canceled the final day of the annual Pacific Air Show, which usually draws thousands of spectators to the 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.
Huntington Beach resident David Rapchun said he is concerned about the spill’s impact on the beaches where he grew up as well as the local economy.
“For the amount of oil these things produce I don’t think it’s worth the risk,” Rapchun said. He questioned whether drilling for oil along some of Southern California’s prettiest beaches was a wise idea, noting that the loss of the final day of the air show could jolt the local economy.
“We need oil, but there’s always one question: do we need it there?” he said.
The spill comes 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 1.6 million liters of crude oil. Fish and about 3,400 birds were killed.
In 2015, a broken pipeline north of Santa Barbara sent 541,313 liters 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.
“Oil spills show how dirty and dangerous oil drilling is and oil gets into the water. It’s impossible to clean up so it washes up on our beaches and people come in contact with it and wildlife comes into contact with it. Come on,” she said. “It has long lasting effects on the breeding and reproduction of animals. It is really sad to see this widespread specimen being oiled.”
Associated Press reporters Felicia Fonseca in Phoenix and Julie Walker in New York contributed.
This story has been updated to change the metric conversion to 572,807 liters in the second paragraph, not 98,420 liters.