Crews in the water and along the Southern California coastline are trying to contain a massive oil spill after a possible underwater pipeline leak sent more than 100,000 gallons of oil into the ocean.
Crews were able to remove more than 3,000 gallons of oil from the ocean off the coastline Sunday, according to local officials.
The spill into the waters off Orange County started late Friday or early Saturday when boaters began reporting a sheen in the water, officials said.
"This is just devastating for…our marine life, our habitat, our economics, our entire community," Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley says about the oil spill in California. "Our natural habitat we've spent decades building up and creating is just damaged in a day." pic.twitter.com/MPD07c0ik5
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) October 3, 2021
USA Today reports that Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said the amount of gallons of oil that leaked into the water is likely higher, though the energy company that owns the pipeline said totals likely wouldn’t be much higher.
Oil spill an “environmental catastrophe”
Carr called the spill an “environmental catastrophe” and a “potential ecological disaster”. The beachside city, about 40 miles (65 km) south of Los Angeles, was bearing the brunt of the spill.
She added, according to Reuters: “Our wetlands are being degraded and portions of our coastline are now covered in oil.”
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife ordered a fishery closure for coastal areas affected by the spill.
The closure will extend from Huntington Beach to Dana Point for the coastal areas, and it will extend up to six miles off the coastal points for the offshore area, the department said late Sunday.
Carr said the oil rig was operated by Beta Offshore, a California subsidiary of Houston-based Amplify Energy Corporation (AMPY.N).
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.
As authorities work to find what caused a massive oil spill off Huntington Beach, Rep. Michelle Steel has sent a letter to President Joe Biden requesting a major disaster declaration for Orange County. https://t.co/96gYdDBPTx pic.twitter.com/fw7qgvmrnM
— Spectrum News 1 SoCal (@SpecNews1SoCal) October 3, 2021
Carr, in her remarks, added: “In the coming days and weeks we challenge the responsible parties to do everything possible to rectify this environmental catastrophe.”
On Sunday, Orange County supervisor Katrina Foley said the oil had infiltrated the Talbert Marsh, a large ecological reserve, causing “significant damage.”
Beaches were closed to swimming and a local air show was canceled, although some people were undeterred from setting up chairs on the beach to enjoy a sunny Sunday or strolling along the pier.
Southern California hit by oil leak three decades ago
The oil spill comes three decades after a massive leak hit the same stretch of Orange county coast. On February 7, 1990, the oil tanker American Trader ran over its anchor off Huntington Beach, spilling nearly 417,000 gallons of crude. Fish and about 3,400 birds were killed.
In 2015, a ruptured pipeline north of Santa Barbara sent 143,000 gallons of crude oil gushing onto Refugio State Beach.
Huntington State Beach is home to a number of species of birds, including gulls, willet, long-billed fletcher, elegant terns and reddish egret, which are a rarity on the west coast, according to Ben Smith, a biologist and environmental consultant for Orange county.