- More than 125,000 gallons of crude oil has leaked from an offshore California pipeline into the Pacific Ocean.
- The spill stretches 13 miles from Huntington Beach to Newport Beach, and has already officially reached shore, officials say.
- The US Coast Guard is coordinating a multi-agency response to contain the spill and minimize its ecological impacts.
California officials are warning of a potential ecological disaster from a massive offshore oil spill.
The seven-mile oil plume, which stretches about 13 square miles from Huntington Beach to Newport Beach, was first reported Saturday by lifeguards and locals who smelled a strong odor in the area. The Coast Guard and Huntington Beach Police Department are coordinating a response and dispatched aircraft to access the situation, the USCG said in a news release.
“The size of the spill demanded prompt and aggressive action. As a coastal city the values our ecological assets, Huntington Beach has deployed all necessary and existing resources to prevent significant environmental degradation of the spill,” the City of Huntington Beach said in a statement.
The spill was the result of a leak from the local Elly oil platform, Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley said. The exact cause is still unclear.
The US Coast Guard has not yet responded to Insider’s request for more information on the cause of the spill or the ongoing response efforts, including cleanup. Beta Offshore, the oil production company that operates the Elly platform, has not responded to Insider.
“We recognize how serious this is and we are and will continue to fight this with all of our collective resources to ensure that we avert this from becoming a major environmental disaster here in our community,” Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris said.
Workers shut down the pipeline on Saturday and used pressurized equipment to retrieve as much oil as possible after the incident was flagged, the LA Times reported. Officials also began deploying booms, floating barriers that can slow and contain the spread of oil spills, to block contaminated water from entering the Talbert Marsh and the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve and wetlands, important ecosystems for local wildlife.
Oil has already reached the Huntington Beach beach fronts, OC Supervisor Foley said in a tweet. She also corroborated reports of dead marine and wildlife washing up on shore covered in oil.
“While the leak has not been completely stopped, preliminary patching has been completed to repair the oil spill site. Additional repair efforts will be attempted in the morning,” the city said on Saturday. “At this time, due to the toxicity created by the spill, the City is asking that individuals remain clear of the beach and avoid coming into contact with oiled areas.”
Local governments have since closed several miles of ocean and beaches for swimmers and surfers. The city also cancelled the last day of the popular Pacific Airshow, as officials require unfettered access to the affected areas and agencies continue monitoring the potential health effects of the oil spill.
The spill comes as Southern California’s coastline is filled with ships waiting to port in Long Beach and Los Angeles. Earlier this month Los Angeles and Long Beach ports had 62 cargo ships waiting to dock and unload — a stark contrast to an average of one to zero ships before the coronavirus pandemic.
It has been about 30 years since the last major oil spill hit the Orange County area. In 1990, the American Trader oil tanker spilled 417,000 gallons of crude, killing fish and approximately 3,400 birds and polluting popular beaches along the Orange County coast.
“At some point, we must address these types of spills and how they are reeking such havoc not just on our environment, but also on our economics in our community,” Foley said in a press conference on Saturday.
This is a developing story.