California braces for ‘environmental catastrophe’ amid fears 126,000-gallon oil pipeline leak behind 13-square-mile slick has STILL not stopped: Wildlife washes up dead and beaches could close for months
- Officials warned people in the Huntington Beach area in Los Angeles that more than 126,000 gallons of oil leaked from an offshore rig and began washing up on local beaches
- The leak was reported Saturday afternoon, as the US Coast Guard reported the spill was about three miles off Newport Beach, a popular beach destination in Orange County
- Huntington Beach officials said the spill has been patched up but ‘not completely stopped’
- The oil spill is believed to have originated from a pipeline leak that’s part of an offshore platform, operated by Beta Offshore, a Long Beach unit of Houston’s Amplify Energy
California is bracing for an ‘environmental catastrophe’ amid fears that a 126,000-gallon oil pipeline leak which is behind a 13-square-mile slick has still not stopped.
More than 3,000 barrels of heavy crude have spilled into the Pacific Ocean between Huntington Beach Pier and Newport Beach, a stretch of more than five miles.
Dead birds and fish have been washing up along Orange Country’s famous beaches covered in sludge since the breach in the pipeline was reported on Saturday.
Engineers believe the leak is from a broken underwater pipe connected to the Elly offshore rig but are yet to confirm whether it has been patched.
Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said last night: ‘In a year, that has been filled with incredibly challenging issues, this oil spill constitutes one of the most devastating situations that our community has dealt with in decades.
‘We are doing everything in our power to protect the health and safety of our residents, our visitors and our natural habitats.
‘In the coming days and weeks we challenge the responsible parties to do everything possible to rectify this environmental catastrophe.’
The coast is a renowned habitat for threatened and endangered species including humpback whales and a small wading bird called the snowy plover.
The Coast Guard has recovered 3,150 gallons of oil from the water and deployed 5,360 feet of skimmers and floating barriers known as booms to try to stop further incursion into the wetlands and the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.
Officials still don’t have confirmation that a major oil spill off the coast of Southern California has been capped as 126,000 gallons of crude continued spreading across the shorelines on Sunday evening
Orange County’s famous beaches could be closed for weeks or months as birds and fishes have been washing up dead and drenched in sludge
Oil formed into globules, foam and sheen that flowed in from high tide and was held back by a sand berm and boom in a trapped pool as a major oil spill washes ashore on the border of Huntington Beach and Newport Beach
Oil absorbent booms are being used by workers with Patriot Environmental Services to clean up oil that flowed into the Talbert Marsh in Huntington Beach on Sunday
The coastline was closed from the Huntington Beach Pier nearly 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) south to the Santa Ana River jetty.
‘Once we get a better understanding of exactly how that flow is going to hit the shorelines, then we’ll be better to assess exactly how long this beach clean up will take,’ Carr said.
There were 105 Coast Guard workers deployed to conduct a shoreside response, fourteen Coast Guard boats led oil recovery operations Sunday afternoon, three Coast Guard boats enforced a safety zone off 1,000 yards around oil spill boats and four aircrafts were dispatched for overflight assessments.
Some birds and fish were caught in the muck and died, Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley said. But by early afternoon Saturday the U.S. Coast Guard said there so far was just one ruddy duck that was covered in oil and receiving veterinary care. ‘Other reports of oiled wildlife are being investigated,’ the Coast Guard said in a statement.
The Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has declared a fishery closure for coastal areas affected by the oil spill.
The oil will likely continue to approach the Orange County coast, including Newport Beach to the south, over the next few days, officials said.
U.S. Representative Michelle Steel, a Republican representing part of the affected area, sent a letter to Democratic President Joe Biden requesting a major disaster declaration for Orange County, which would free up federal funds to help with the clean-up efforts.
The spill occurred in federal waters. In a statement, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), a division of the Interior Department, said it was supporting response efforts headed by the U.S. Coast Guard.
The bureau said its role was to ‘assist in identifying the location and source of any spills and provide technical assistance in stopping the spillage’.
Crews led by the U.S. Coast Guard recovered 3,150 gallons of oil from the water, of the 126,000 gallons that spilled into the Pacific Ocean
Fourteen Coast Guard boats led oil recovery operations Sunday afternoon
Crews led by the U.S. Coast Guard deployed 5,360 feet of skimmers and floating barriers known as protective booms to try to stop further incursion into the wetlands and the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve
The spill occurred in federal waters. In a statement, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), a division of the Interior Department, said it was supporting response efforts headed by the U.S. Coast Guard
Workers with Patriot Environmental Services cleaned up oil that flowed into the Talbert Marsh in Huntington Beach on Sunday
The oil spill fouled popular beaches with black sludge
Multiple reports of oil in the sand and in the water were communicated to local authorities on Sunday
A seagull flies over oil washed up by the coast in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Sunday after crude oil spilled into the Pacific Ocean
Officials canceled the final day of the annual Pacific Air Show that typically draws thousands of spectators to Huntington Beach, a city of about 199,000 residents about 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of downtown Los Angeles.
The Times said the oil slick is believed to have originated from a pipeline leak, while Orange County supervisor Katrina Foley tweeted that the oil spilled from Platform Elly, operated by Beta Offshore, a Long Beach unit of Houston’s Amplify Energy.
Huntington Beach officials shared a statement early Sunday saying ‘while the leak has not been completely stopped, preliminary patching has been completed to repair the oil spill site,’ with additional repairs planned.
‘We classify this as a major spill, and it is a high priority to us to mitigate any environmental concerns,’ said Jennifer Carey, a Huntington Beach city spokesperson. ‘It’s all hands on deck.’
Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley said the spill was estimated to be around 5 miles off the coast.
The pipeline leak originates from a platform located in federal waters. It sits on top of an oil reservoir underneath coastal waters known as Beta Field, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Map below of Oil Platform locations of the OC Coast, the platform in question is the ‘Elly’ and it appears that the source of the spill has been contained at this time
It was set-up in March 1980 and processes crude oil production from two other platforms. The city newspaper reported that workers had moved to shut down the pipeline and use pressurized equipment to retrieve as much oil as possible soon after the incident was reported.
Videos and pictures shared Sunday on Twitter show dark stretches of sand where oil seems to have come ashore, curving around seashells as birds and beachgoers stand nearby.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife said it had sent surveillance and cleanup teams to the beach, and the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at the University of California at Davis said it had also dispatched staff to response efforts in the Newport Beach area.
Beaches were closed on Sunday as environmental rescue teams got a first view of the major spill
Oil was spotted on the beach in Huntington Beach, California, impacting the environment nearby
Surfers that planned on surfing look at oil on the beach in Huntington Beach, California after 126,000 gallons of oil spilled into the ocean yesterday
Oil is seen on the beach in Huntington Beach, California on Saturday and Sunday after a pipeline breach connected to an oil rig offshore started leaking oil, according to an Orange County Supervisor
Meanwhile, Huntington Beach officials urged people to stay off the beach and to avoid coming across oiled areas because of the ‘toxicity created by the spill.’
Residents were urged to call a hotline at (877) 823-6926 if they spotted any wildlife affected by the oil.
According to the Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy, the area is visited by thousands of birds per year as a resting place during their long migrations from nesting grounds in the Arctic on their trip in South America.
The largest oil spill in the ocean recorded in California, was near Santa Barbara in 1969. An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 barrels of crude oil spilled over ten days and killed an estimated 3,500 sea birds, as well as ocean wildlife such as dolphins, elephant seals and sea lions.
It reportedly inspired the government to come up with Earth Day. The latest spill amounts to about 3,000 barrels.
‘At some point we must address these types of spills and how they are wreaking such havoc not only on our environment, but also on our economics, in our communities,’ Foley said.
Oceana, an ocean conservation group, called for an end to offshore oil and gas drilling.
Jacqueline Savitz, Oceana’s chief policy officer, said in a statement: ‘This is just the latest tragedy of the oil industry. It’s well past time to prevent future oil spills by permanently protecting our coasts from offshore drilling.’
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