OC Coastline closed as crews work to contain “potential environmental disaster” – CBS Los Angeles
HUNTINGTON BEACH (CBSLA) – One of the largest oil spills in recent Southern California history is likely due to a pipeline leak and made it to Huntington Beach on Sunday – killing fish, birds and other wildlife from the ocean – causing the shoreline to be closed and the cancellation of the third day of the Pacific Airshow.
Authorities said 126,000 gallons of oil leaked from the Elly offshore oil rig on Saturday and began to run aground in Orange County and coastal waters. The spill was likely caused by a pipeline leak from a facility operated by Beta Offshore about five miles from the coast, officials said.
The oil slick impacted nearly six miles from Huntington Beach Pier to Balboa Pier, and resulted in the beach closure from Santa Ana River Pier to Huntington Beach Pier. Health officials have warned people not to swim, surf or exercise near the beach due to potential health risks. People have also been advised not to fish in the area as the waters are considered poisonous.
Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr called the situation a “potential ecological disaster” and said some of the oil had reached the shore and was impacting the Talbert Marshes and the Santa Ana River Trail.
“We are aware that oil has reached the beach here in Huntington Beach and it also appears that oil has seeped into Talbert Marsh,” Carr said.
The oil also began to run aground in Newport Beach on Sunday, where authorities asked people not to enter the water, although they have not officially closed the ocean. The town of Laguna Beach also closed its beaches to the public starting at 9 p.m. on Sunday.
Fourteen boats conducted oil recovery operations on Sunday. Three Coast Guard boats have imposed a 1,000-meter safety zone around the oil spill boats. Four aircraft were dispatched for overflight assessments. The shore response was carried out by 105 government agency staff.
About 3,150 gallons of oil have so far been recovered from the water and 5,360 feet of boom have been deployed to control the spread of the oil.
The platform began to leak on Friday and was reported by rescuers who said they smelled significant odors of oil in the area. Crews remained on site overnight on Sunday to try to help with the cleanup, as dead birds and oil-coated fish began to wash ashore.
OC supervisor Katrina Foley said on Sunday that the pipeline was still leaking.
The spill occurred in federal waters from the Elly Platform, built in 1980 to process crude oil from two other platforms, which tap into a large reservoir called Beta Field. Houston-based Amplify Energy Corp. is the parent company of Beta Offshore.
Elly is one of three platforms operated by Beta Operating Co., which also operates Ellen and Eureka nearby. Elly processes the oil production of Ellen and Eureka and is supplied by some 70 oil wells. The processing platform separates the oil from the water. Elly is one of 23 oil and gas platforms installed in federal waters off the southern California coast, according to the Home Office’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Besides Elly, a processing plant, there are 20 others that produce oil and gas, and two are in the process of being decommissioned.
Skimming equipment and booms have been deployed to prevent the influx of oil into the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve and Huntington Beach Wetlands, although officials said wildlife was already affected. Foley said on Sunday she was informed by Huntington Beach that the wildlife in Talbert’s wetlands had been “significantly affected”.
“The wildlife is dying,” Foley said. “It’s very sad. We have reports of dead animals along the shore, washing up on the shore in the beach area of Huntington Beach State, as well as wildlife in the swamp and wetlands. is dying.
The last day of the Pacific Airshow was also canceled by the spill on Sunday.
“The airshow was canceled,” Foley said. ” It is sad. I was planning on going and am disappointed like all 1.5 million other people who were planning to go today but we just can’t put on the air show and I know that the organizers were very cooperative. They know that cleaning up everyone is difficult.
“This oil spill is a tragic reminder that offshore drilling is a devastating threat to our coast and its wildlife,” said Miyoko Sakashita, director of the Oceans program at the Center for Biological Diversity. “I have seen the aging oil rigs off Huntington Beach up close and I know it is high time to decommission these time bombs. Even after fines and criminal charges, the oil industry continues to expand into California’s coastal waters because these companies are simply not able to operate safely. The only solution is to shut down this dirty business.
State wildlife officials said at least one soiled red duck was receiving medical attention, as local wildlife rescue groups mobilized to help.
“We have all of our gear, which includes masks, goggles for our staff,” Debbie McGuire, director of the Wetlands & Wildlife Center in Huntington Beach, told the Orange County Register. “We also have IV fluids ready to stabilize the animals.” The center received at least five birds from the spill on Sunday, she said.
The Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach also made its staff and facilities available if needed.
Laguna Beach authorities closed all of the city’s beaches as of 9 p.m. Sunday due to the oil spill.
Long Beach officials said their beaches and swimming areas were unaffected by the spill as the currents moved south from Huntington Beach.
The spill was reminiscent of another environmental disaster decades ago. An estimated 3,400 birds were killed when the U.S. tanker Trader crashed its anchor and pierced its hull on February 7, 1990, dumping about 416,600 gallons of crude oil off the coast of Huntington Beach.
Following the spill, the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center was established on March 31, 1998 at 21900 Pacific Coast Highway to help injured and orphaned wildlife, including oil-soiled birds, according to the DFW. A makeshift facility at this site treated birds injured in the 1990 spill, according to the centre’s website.
The cause of the leak is being investigated. In the meantime, the public has been invited to report any affected wildlife by calling 1-877-823-6826. Those interested in participating in wildlife clean-up or salvage efforts have been urged to visit the Surfrider Foundation and HB Wetlands & Wildlife websites.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All rights reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)