Crews at sea and along the southern California coast worked hard on Sunday to curb what is shaping up to be a major environmental disaster following one of the largest oil spills in recent history from California. It would have occurred in an oil pipeline located underwater and released more than 380,000 liters of oil into the ocean.
Floating booms, a temporary floating barrier used to contain marine spills, were deployed to the ocean surface in an attempt to contain the oil as divers sought to determine where and why the leak had occurred. On land, there was a race to find animals injured by oil and to stop the oil from spreading through Orange County's more sensitive ecosystem.
Crews were able to remove more than 11,400 liters of oil from the ocean off the coast on Sunday, Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley says
The oil spill reached the shores of Huntington Beach on Saturday night, a popular destination about 31 miles south of downtown Los Angeles after a suspected pipeline ruptured from an oil rig about five miles from the rating. The owner of the pipeline, which is one of Southern California's largest oil producers, has shut down production due to the leak. Officials say more oil will spill onto the land this week, covering both beaches and wildlife in thick crude tar.
Late Sunday, Laguna Beach, another popular beach destination, announced that all of its beaches would close due to the spread of oil to the south of the region. Photos and videos of the coast showed slicks of thick black oil lining the shores. Residents were also pictured rescuing birds covered in black mud. Foley said Sunday morning that dead birds and fish had already washed up on the shore.
At least 573,000 liters of crude spilled into the waters off Orange County from Friday evening or early Saturday, when boaters began reporting spotting in the water, officials said. Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said the gallons of oil that has leaked into the water is likely higher, although the energy company that owns the pipeline said in the end , the quantities would probably not be much higher.
Carr added that officials had not been told how quickly the oil was leaking or how much was spilled into the ocean since the meeting began on Saturday.
"In a year filled with incredibly difficult problems, this oil spill constitutes one of the most devastating situations our community has faced in decades," she said, calling the spill an "environmental disaster." .
The spill is believed to have originated from a broken pipeline connected to an offshore oil rig known as Elly. The platform is connected by a catwalk to another platform, Ellen, located just over eight miles off Long Beach and operated by Beta Operating Company, according to the Federal Office of Security and Enforcement. of environmental law.
Beta is owned by its parent company, Amplify Energy Corp, based in Houston.
Amplify Energy Corp is one of the largest oil producers in Southern California. Its chairman and chief executive, Martyn Willsher, said he noticed a problem during an inspection on Saturday morning and notified the US Coast Guard. The pipeline was cut off at both ends and the pumps were shut off Saturday night and stayed that way on Sunday, he said.
Willsher said the company is still examining how this could have happened and whether it was indeed a leak. Inspections are carried out every two years, he said, adding that the facilities were built in the 1970s and 1980s and Amplify Energy Corp has owned and maintained the pipeline for about 9 years.
“We are investigating the source and potential cause of this incident. As I said, we will continue to work with the relevant authorities to ensure that this recovery effort is completed as quickly as possible, ” he said. “We are all deeply touched and concerned about the impact not only on the environment, but also on fish and wildlife. "
Willsher promised the company "will do everything in their power to ensure this is recovered as quickly as possible."
He added that he did not believe that the amount of oil spilled into the ocean would increase beyond 573,000 liters because that was the total capacity of the entire pipeline.
Huntington Beach Police spokeswoman Jennifer Carey said so much oil created a slick that stretches nearly 10 nautical miles in length. Carrey warned of "substantial ecological impacts" for the beach and wetlands. About 7 km of coast have been closed to the public.
"Due to the toxicity of the slick, the city asks all residents to stay away from the beach and avoid coming into contact with dirty areas ," she said in a statement. .
Authorities have warned the public of the dangers of being near the coast, with toxic fumes that can cause vomiting, dizziness and irritation to the nose, eyes and throat. If toxic sludge is touched, it could be absorbed through the skin and cause irritation.
Those who wanted to help clean up or save animals injured by the disaster were urged not to go to the beaches, but rather to contact the Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and cleaning of the coasts.
The response team from the State Department of Fisheries and Wildlife also assisted in the cleanup efforts.
The oil spill also forced the cancellation of a popular air show as authorities rushed to minimize ecological damage. Authorities canceled the last day of the annual pacific air show, which typically draws thousands of spectators to Huntington Beach, a city of 200,000.
"The magnitude of the leak demanded swift and energetic action," Carrey said. “It is of the utmost importance to minimize damage and impact on sensitive wetlands and marine environments in our city. "
The U.S. Coast Guard was leading the on-scene response, saying details of the cause of the spill were under investigation. Crews led by the Guard deployed skimmers and floating barriers known as booms in an attempt to stop any further incursions into the wetlands and Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.
The Coast Guard said it received a report of an oil stain on Saturday morning. Planes were dispatched to ascertain the extent of the leak, and the Oiled Wildlife Care Network was monitoring contaminated wildlife. Officials urged residents not to touch the oiled wildlife.
“Contractors trained in spill response work to clean up the oil. Volunteers are not needed and could hinder response efforts , ”the Coast Guard said. “We ask residents to stay away from the area. "
Jacqueline Savitz, policy director at environmental group Oceana, said it is time for President Joe Biden to keep his campaign pledge to end offshore drilling.
“When we do, we dump,” Savitz said. “It is high time to prevent future oil spills by permanently protecting our coasts. "
This tragedy comes three decades after a massive oil spill struck the same stretch of the Orange County coast. On February 7, 1990, the tanker American Trader dropped anchor off Huntington Beach, dumping nearly 1,900,000 liters of crude. Fish and approximately 3,400 birds were killed.
In 2015, a pipeline rupture north of Santa Barbara sent 650,000 liters of crude oil to Refugio State Beach.