A massive oil spill sends crude oil onto Orange County beaches, killing birds and marine life (2023)

Crews raced on Sunday to contain damage from a major oil spill off the coast of Orange County that left beaches slick with oil, killing fish and birds and threatening local wetlands.

The leak, first reported on Saturday, came from a pipeline off the coast of Huntington Beach connected to an offshore oil rig called Elly. The fault spilled at least 126,000 gallons of crude oil into coastal waters, forming a slick stretching over about 8,320 acres, larger than the size of Santa Monica, and sending oil to the shores of Newport Beach and Huntington Beach in Sunday morning. .

Oil from the oil spill also seeped into Talbert Marsh, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary in Huntington Beach that is home to dozens of species of birds.

To notice

Officials said Sunday afternoon that the pipeline appeared to have stopped leaking. However, Orange County Superintendent Katrina Foley said that despite efforts to repair the damaged pipeline on Saturday, the oil continued to leak overnight and divers were still working to fix it on Sunday.

It's unclear what caused the leak and how long oil has been leaking from the system.

The oil washed ashore on Huntington Beach Sunday morning, streaking visible in the ocean, prompting officials to close a strip of sand from Seapoint Street to the Newport Beach city limits at the pier on the Santa Ana River. Dead birds and fish began to appear. on the coast, officials said.

A massive oil spill sends crude oil onto Orange County beaches, killing birds and marine life (1)

An oil slick covers the beach as a man walks past the scene of a large oil spill washing up on Huntington State Beach in Huntington Beach on Sunday.

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

“In a year of incredibly challenging issues, this oil spill is one of the most devastating situations our community has faced in decades,” said Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr. “Rest assured that the Huntington Beach team was quickly mobilized and we are proactive in responding. We are doing everything we can to protect the health and safety of our residents, visitors and our natural habitats."

Oil is likely to continue washing up on Orange County beaches in the coming days, officials said.

A massive oil spill off the coast of Orange County has polluted beaches and killed birds and marine life.

After sunrise, the smell of diesel and tar filled the shores of Huntington State Beach. Breaking waves brought dark oil to shore in chunks and rings.
Despite the beach being closed, residents crowded the sand early on Sunday to assess the damage.

"It's horrible," said Jon Ely, a 58-year-old Huntington Beach resident. "It won't come off. It's sticky and thick."

Manhattan Beach resident Mike Ruby gave up paddling in Newport Beach for 30 minutes on Sunday afternoon after seeing a sign in the sand that read, "Due to oil spill, water is closed."

Emerging from the sea, Ruby said she tasted the oil mixing with the salty sea water, but it was worth it. "It was great getting wet, the sun and all," he said.

A massive oil spill sends crude oil onto Orange County beaches, killing birds and marine life (3)

Oil blankets the beach as a bird feeds on the tide as a large oil spill washes ashore on the Huntington Beach and Newport Beach border at the Santa Ana River pier, Sunday, October 3, 2021 in Huntington Beach.

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Orange County Representative Michelle Steel Sunday sent a letter to President Joe Biden requesting a major disaster declaration for Orange County that will provide additional federal assistance to state and local agencies and people affected by the spill.

“It is imperative that the federal government support recovery efforts,” he wrote. "I am seriously concerned about the environmental impact of the oil spill and I applaud the workers who are doing everything they can to prevent oil from reaching sensitive wetlands."

Huntington State Beach is home to several species of birds, including gulls, gulls, elegant terns and herons, which are a rarity on the West Coast, according to Ben Smith, a biologist and environmental consultant for the county.

Smith drove to the beach Sunday morning to look for wildlife ahead of a proposed construction project at the mouth of the Santa Ana River, which flows into the ocean on the border of Huntington State Beach and Newport Beach.

"There's tar everywhere," he said, watching the birds gather on the north bank of the river. "They think we've figured out how to avoid this, but I don't."

A massive oil spill sends crude oil onto Orange County beaches, killing birds and marine life (4)

An aerial view of a large oil spill making landfall on the border of Huntington Beach and Newport Beach.

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

The spill could have significant habitat impacts, he said.

“If birds get into the tar, it will stick to their feathers and be a problem for them,” he said. "It polluted the water - it's bad for wildlife, bad for the water, bad for the people who use the water. It's a disgrace."

There were no immediate reports of affected marine mammals, but the fallout for them usually appears days after a spill event, said Krysta Higuchi, spokeswoman for the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach.

“The main animals currently affected are birds,” he said. “The Pacific Marine Mammal Center is on hold. It's more of a marathon than a sprint. We have all hands on deck. We are preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best."

According to the records, California authorities received reports of oil in Huntington Beach waters on Friday.

The Pacific Marine Mammal Center will handle the entry and culling of seals and sea lions, he said. Whales or dolphins would be sent to Sea World in San Diego because they have the biggest tanks.

"The audience has been absolutely amazing and asking how they can help," he said. "It's definitely going to be a big purge. It's all over the place. It's going to be a long process."

The oil spill has already dumped more fuel into local waters than the San Francisco Bay oil spill in 2007, when the freighter Cosco Busan plunged into the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in heavy fog. This spill dumped 58,000 gallons of bunker fuel into the bay, resulting in thedocumented deathsof more than 6,800 birds.

On the beach early Sunday, Supervisor Foley watched bubbles of oil the size of softballs spill onto the sand.

“It is a huge environmental and economic impact, both in terms of cleaning and the closure of an important tourist destination during a pandemic that we have all been fighting”, he said. "It's a tragedy on all fronts."
The good news, Foley said, is that technology has improved enough in recent years that authorities can detect and contain the spread of oil more quickly than in previous oil spills.

Huntington Beach officials deployed 2,050 feet of floating barriers known as cantilevers to try to deter further encroachments and protect other sensitive wildlife areas, including the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. County officials also built large sandbars near Talbert Marsh to prevent seawater and oil from continuing to flow into the habitat.

Oil slick flows into Talbert Marsh, most of it stopped by barriers at Huntington Beach. Offshore cleaning boats in action. closed beaches and@Pacific_Airshowcanceled# oil spill #Orange County @Latimes @latimesphotos pic.twitter.com/0eOUdKqbve

— Allen J. Schaben (@alschaben)3. October 2021

“We can clean this up sooner and better than previous oil spills, but that doesn't mean it's okay,” he said. "Someone has to be held accountable for how this happened."

Foley urged people to stay away from the beach. He said he could "feel the steam" in the air and his throat started to hurt as he was on the beach to assess the damage Sunday morning.

Swimmer comes very close to the large oil spill in Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. Unfolded feathers. closed beaches@Pacific_Airshowcanceled# oil spill #Orange County @Latimes @latimesphotos pic.twitter.com/CmRFDOe5uR

— Allen J. Schaben (@alschaben)3. October 2021

Offshore areas off the coast of Southern California are an important source of oil. The Elly platform is located in federal waters offOrange County Coast, guerraTo set upin 1980 and processes crude oil production from two other platforms. Elly is sitting on top of a large oil reservoir calledBeta fieldin waters controlled by the United States Department of the Interior.

Elly is one of 23 oil and gas platforms installed in federal waters off the coast of Southern California.afterto the Department of the Interior, Office of Ocean Energy Management. In addition to Elly, a processing plant, another 20 plants are producing oil and gas and two are closing.

A massive oil spill sends crude oil onto Orange County beaches, killing birds and marine life (6)

(Paul Duginski/Los Angeles Times)

Elly is one of three platforms operated by the Beta Operating Company, which also operates the nearby Ellen and Eureka platforms. EliLaw SuitOil production by Ellen and Eureka, and Elly is connected to Ellen through a platform.

Workers at Amplify Energy, which owns the rig, noticed a glint in the water during an inspection of the line Saturday morning and notified the Coast Guard, Amplify CEO Martyn Willsher said during a conference call with media on Sunday afternoon.

It is not clear when the leak started. The 17.5-mile pipeline was sucked in at both ends to stem the flow of oil into the water, and divers are working in the area to determine what went wrong.

It's also unclear whether the leak is the result of a small leak or a burst pipe, Willsher said.

Congressman Alan Lowenthal, whose district includes Long Beach and parts of Orange County, said the spill was "as tragic as it is preventable."

“This environmental disaster underscores the simple fact that where there is drilling, there is spillage. Unfortunately, as we are witnessing, if you drill along the coast, if you funnel that oil into land, our coasts will take the brunt of such oil spills," he said in a statement. "Not only will this be devastating for our lives. wildlife and marine ecosystem, but also for the livelihoods of our coastal communities that depend on fisheries, tourism and recreation”.

Last minute: First, look at the huge oil spills in Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. Unfolded feathers. closed beaches@Pacific_Airshowcanceled# oil spill #Orange County @Latimes @latimesphotos pic.twitter.com/RkN09YTBjS

— Allen J. Schaben (@alschaben)3. October 2021

The Coast Guard received an initial report of an oil slick about three miles off the coast of Newport Beach around 9:10 am. M. from Saturday. City of Huntington Beach officials said they were notified of the leak around the same time.

Workers were redeployed to close the pipeline and use pressure equipment to recover as much oil as possible shortly after the incident was reported, said Kate Conrad of Beta Offshore, a Southern California oil producer involved in the operation.

"We were alerted quickly," he says.

The Coast Guard has established a unified command with Beta Offshore and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's Office of Spill Prevention and Response.

Newport Beach Mayor Brad Avery sailed his boat from Avalon to the air show around 11:30 am. m. on Saturday when he found the leak. Other sailors reported it on marine radio as they passed over the slick, he said.

Divers perform an intricate inspection of pipelines on the seafloor, 80 to 100 feet below the ocean's surface.

"When we got about five miles offshore, we suddenly hit a big oil slick," he said. "We had a pod of dolphins on the bow as we passed. Of course, we couldn't give them a signal to change direction, but they seemed to be doing fine."

The shoreline in Newport Beach remained open on Sunday, but officials are advising people to stay away from the beach and water. Authorities received reports that oil washed up on the beach between 52nd Street and the pier, but it didn't appear to be as widespread as the oil that washed up in the nearby town, Avery said.

Early Sunday morning, four men dropped fishing line into the water near the mouth of the Santa Ana River in Newport Beach, where the sand remained open. Families dragged beach chairs across the beach and into the water.

“Unfortunately, the scale and potential impact of this oil spill makes it necessary for people to stay out of the water and avoid contact with the oil,” Avery said. "The city's top priority is ensuring the safety of our residents and visitors during the cleanup effort."

People are being asked not to approach or touch potentially affected wildlife as they "could do more harm than good to the animals", but instead call the UC Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network at (877) 823 -6926, said Eric Laughlin, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. A team from the network was mobilized for all the necessary rescue and rehabilitation work.

“The public should avoid the Oleada Coast as the area is unsafe and should only be cleaned by trained contractors,” Laughlin said.

The leak prompted authorities to cancel the final day of the three-day event.Pacific Air Show. The air show, which draws thousands of people to the city each year, featured flyovers by US Navy Blue Angels, US Air Force Thunderbirds and Snowbirds, and Canadian forces. According to a 2019 report on the economic impact of the Great Pacific Airshow, the event is expected to generate approximately $68.1 million in expenses and $3.4 million in additional tourism-related revenue.

Residents who inspected Newport Beach on Sunday morning expressed skepticism about the timing of the leak and the notifications received. Newport Shores resident Neal Shehab, 61, said he started smelling oil smoke on Friday.

Oil is likely to continue washing up on Orange County beaches in the coming days, officials said.

"We didn't know what it was," he said, adding that he believes the public wasn't notified quickly because they "didn't want to cancel the first day of the airshow."

Newport Beach resident Kerry Keating said she and other neighbors began to smell "horrible, strong" tar on Friday night, and several people on the Nextdoor neighborhood network also reported hearing a loud bang.

“We are all very concerned about marine life,” Keating wrote in an email.

The second day of the air show continued on Saturday. Locals posted on social media wondering if the stench was a by-product of the plane's exhaust.

Hal Lopez came to town from the Bay Area to see the show and was staying with relatives in Huntington Beach. As he ran along the crowded boardwalk on Friday night, he remembers smelling something rotten, like old meat.

“I didn't know what was going on and I had to stop running. I have a very sensitive nose," he said.

The gardener said his cousin told him over dinner that the neighbors were talking about an oil spill. They went online to look for information to confirm or dispel the rumours.

"Everybody was wondering if the local authorities had given us a tip or some kind of warning," he said.

Divers examining the 17.7-mile pipeline found that it had shifted about 105 feet and suffered a 13-inch gap parallel to the pipeline.

At a press conference on Saturday night, local officials expressed serious concerns about the environmental impact of the oil spill and hoped workers could stop the oil from reaching sensitive wetlands.

"We work with our federal, state and local partners to mitigate the impact of a potential environmental disaster," Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr told reporters.

The incident comes more than 30 years after a major oil spill hit the coast of Orange County.

On the afternoon of February 7, 1990, the tanker American Trader capsized in relatively shallow waters off Huntington Beach, spilling nearly 417,000 gallons of crude oil and littering popular beaches along the Orange County coast. The oil killed fish and about 3,400 birds.

In 2015, a pipeline north of Santa Barbara ruptured, sending 143,000 gallons of crude oil to Refugio State Beach, some of which spilled into the ocean. Tar balls from the leak were found north of Manhattan Beach.

This spill forced the beaches of Refugio and El Capitan state to close and covered the waves, rocky shores, sandy beaches and kelp forests with oil. According to the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, which was involved in the recovery effort, 204 birds and 106 marine mammals died as a result of the spill.

A Santa Barbara County grand jury later indicted Plains All American Pipeline on 46 counts, including four felonies, for knowingly discharging a pollutant into state waters. The company agreed to pay more than $60 million and shift its operations to resolve disputes arising from the oil spill.

Senator Dave Min (D-Irvine) said the Orange County oil spill was a disaster for the region's beautiful coastline.

“I spoke with state officials last night and this oil spill appears to be comparable to the 2015 Refugio State Beach oil spill. Beaches may need to be closed for several weeks or longer. The impact on our local marine ecosystem and economy will be significant," said Min.

In recent years, there has been debate over whether the government should allow new oil drilling off the coast of California. No new offshore oil drilling in federal waters off the state's coast has been approved since 1984.

die trump-administrationsuggestedDevelop offshore oil and natural gas reserves, including those under California waters, for exploration.

Senadora Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)suggestedaninvoicein January, it would permanently bar the Department of the Interior from approving new leases to allow exploration, development or production of oil or natural gas off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington state.

"This oil spill is a tragic reminder that offshore drilling poses a devastating threat to our coastline and its wildlife," said Miyoko Sakashita, director of the Oceans program at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Having seen the old Huntington Beach oil rigs up close, I know it's time to dismantle these ticking time bombs. Even after the fines and criminal charges, the oil industry is still leaking and seeping into California coastal waters due to the inability of these companies to operate safely.”

IT ISworseThe most seaworthy oil spill in California history happened in 1969 after an oil rig explosion in Santa Barbara spilled 4.2 million gallons of crude oil. crude oildeliveredripping at a rate of 1,000 gallons per hour for a month before it could slow down; Thousands of birds, fish and marine mammals died.

The 1969 offshore oil spill was the nation's worst until the Exxon Valdez dumped 11 million gallons of crude oil off the coast of Alaska in 1989. This oil slick darkened the beaches and resulted in carcasses of seals and dolphins being carried by the tides.

The largest marine oil spill in US history resulted in 134 million gallons of oil being dumped into the Gulf of Mexico following a 2010 explosion that rocked the Gulf of Mexicodeep water horizonaccessory

The San Francisco Bay Area recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the devastating 1971 oil spill that spilled 800,000 gallons of bunker fuel into the bay. The oil spill happened after two oil tankers collided in thick fog.milesof dead birds.

On Sunday afternoon, Ron Schwalbe, who lives on the Balboa Peninsula, walked along the sands of Newport Beach taking pictures while avoiding the oil.

"I'm not surprised and I'm not shocked or anything. It's weird that this is happening nowadays," he said. “With all the technology we have, why couldn't they avoid it? ”

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