Massive oil spill fouls beaches, wildlife along Southern California coast

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A massive oil spill off the coast of Southern California has battered beaches and forced the cancellation of a popular air show as officials raced to minimize ecological damage.

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Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley tweeted Sunday that oil smudges have begun in Huntington Beach, 30 miles south of downtown Los Angeles. Foley blamed the rupture of a pipeline attached to an oil rig about five miles off the coast.

“We have started looking for dead birds and fish washing up on the shore,” he tweeted.

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Huntington Beach Police spokeswoman Jennifer Carey said 126,000 gallons of oil had created a leak about six nautical miles long. Carey warned of “substantial ecological impacts” for the coastline and wetlands. About four miles of shoreline were closed to the public.

“Due to the toxicity of the spill, the city is asking that all individuals stay off the beach and avoid contact with the oil fields,” she said in a statement.

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The spill response team of the state fish and wildlife department was assisting in the cleanup effort. Details on the leak were not released. Beta Offshore, which operates three offshore platforms south of Long Beach, was at the scene.

Carey said the leak was fixed but could not be completely stopped.

Officials canceled the last day of the anniversary Pacific Air Show Which usually draws thousands of visitors to Huntington Beach, a city of 200,000 people.

“The size of the spill demanded quick and aggressive action,” Carey said. “Minimizing the damage and impacts to our city’s sensitive wetlands and marine environment is of the utmost importance.”

The Coast Guard was leading the spill response, saying the details of the cause of the spill were being investigated.

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The Coast Guard said it received an oil flash on Saturday morning. Planes were dispatched to observe the width of the spill, and the Oiled Wildlife Care Network was monitoring the tainted wildlife. Officials urged the local people not to touch the oiled wildlife.

“Trained leak response contractors are working to clean up the oil. Public volunteers are not needed and response efforts may be hampered,” the Coast Guard said. “We request that members of the public stay away from the area.”

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