Crews rush to limit damage from massive California oil spill
HUNTINGTON BEACH, California
HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (AP) – Crews on the water and ashore worked feverishly on Sunday to limit environmental damage from one of the largest oil spills in recent California history, caused by a leak suspected in an underwater pipeline that has fouled the sands of famed Huntington Beach and could keep beaches closed for weeks or more.
Dams were deployed to the surface of the ocean in an attempt to contain the oil as divers sought to determine where and why the leak occurred. On land, there was a race to find animals injured by the oil and prevent the spill from harming more sensitive swamps.
An estimated 126,000 gallons (572,807 liters) of heavy crude spilled into the waters off Orange County from Friday night or early Saturday, when boaters began reporting a burst in the water, officials said. The pipeline and operations on three offshore platforms owned by Houston-based Amplify Energy Corp. were closed on Saturday evening, CEO Martyn Willsher said.
He said the 17.5-mile (28.16-kilometer) pipeline that is 80 to 100 feet (24 to 30 meters) below the surface had been sucked so that there was no more oil spill. while the location of the leak was being investigated.
Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said beaches in the community dubbed “Surf City” could remain closed for weeks or even months. The oil sparked several miles in the ocean and washed up on shore in sticky black blood cells.
“In a year filled with incredibly difficult issues, this oil spill is one of the most devastating situations our community has faced in decades,” said Carr. “We are doing everything in our power to protect the health and safety of our residents, visitors and natural habitats. “
Some birds and fish were caught in the mud and died, Orange County supervisor Katrina Foley said. But in early Saturday afternoon, the US Coast Guard said there was so far only one red duck covered in oil and receiving veterinary care. “Other reports of oiled wildlife are under investigation,” the Coast Guard said in a statement.
Crews led by the skimmers deployed by the Coast Guard set up some 3,700 feet (1,128 meters) of floating barriers known as booms in an attempt to prevent more oil from seeping into areas such as Talbert Marsh, officials said of the 25-acre (10-hectare) wetland.
The smell of petroleum permeated the air throughout the region.
“You get the taste in your mouth just from the vapors in the air,” Foley said.
The oil will likely continue to wash up on the shore for several days and will affect Newport Beach and other nearby communities, officials said.
The closure included all of Huntington Beach, from the city’s northern edge to about 6 miles south of the Santa Ana River Pier. The closure came amid summery weather that is said to have drawn large crowds to the Broad Strand for volleyball, swimming and surfing. Yellow warning tape was threaded between the lifeguard towers to keep people away.
Authorities have canceled the last day of the annual Pacific Air Show, which typically draws tens of thousands of spectators to the city of about 200,000 people south of Los Angeles. The show featured flyovers of the US Navy Blue Angels and US Air Force Thunderbirds.
The leaking pipeline connects to an oil production platform named Elly, which in turn is connected by a walkway to an oil rig named Ellen. These two platforms and another nearby platform are in federal waters.
Elly started operating in 1980 in an area called Beta Field. Oil extracted from the depths of the ocean and processed by Elly is transported by pipeline to Long Beach.
Huntington Beach resident David Rapchun said he was concerned about the impact of the spill on the beaches where he grew up as well as on the local economy.
“For the amount of oil that these things produce, I don’t think it’s worth it,” Rapchun said. He questioned whether oil drilling was a good idea along some of Southern California’s most scenic beaches, noting that the loss of the last day of the airshow could be a blow to the local economy.
“We need oil, but there is always a question: do we need it there? he said.
The spill comes three decades after a massive oil spill hit the same part of the Orange County coast. On February 7, 1990, the tanker American Trader crashed its anchor off Huntington Beach, dumping nearly 417,000 gallons (1.6 million liters) of crude. Fish and approximately 3,400 birds were killed.
In 2015, a ruptured pipeline north of Santa Barbara sent 143,000 gallons (541,313 liters) of crude oil gushing out onto Refugio State Beach.
The area affected by the latest spill is home to threatened and endangered species, including a plump shorebird called a snow plover, the California tern and the humpback whale.
“The coastal areas off southern California are really rich in wildlife, a key biodiversity hotspot,” said Miyoko Sakashita, director of the oceans program at the Center for Biological Diversity.
The effects of an oil spill are far reaching, environmentalists said. Birds with oil on their feathers cannot fly, cannot clean themselves, and cannot monitor their own temperature, Sakashita said. Whales, dolphins and other sea creatures can have difficulty breathing or die after swimming in oil or breathing toxic fumes, she said.
“The oil spill shows how dirty and dangerous oil drilling is and how oil gets into the water. It’s impossible to clean it up so it ends up washing up on our beaches and people come in contact with it and wildlife come in contact with it, ”she said. “It has lasting effects on animal husbandry and reproduction. It’s really sad to see this large oiled sample.
Associated Press reporters Felicia Fonseca in Phoenix and Julie Walker in New York contributed.
This story has been updated to correct the metric conversion of the second paragraph to 572,807 liters, not 98,420 liters.
Amy Taxin and Christopher Weber, The Associated Press