The California Coastal Commission records these major oil spills that caused environmental damage from Southern California to the San Francisco Bay Area.
A pipeline leak in the waters off Orange County that started Saturday Oct. 2, 2021 has spilled at least 126,000 gallons, fouling beaches and killing wildlife from the Huntington Beach Pier to Newport Beach.
Here is the commission’s brief history of big California oil spills along with information on the environmental damage a spill can cause:
In 1969, a blowout of a Union Oil drilling rig platform off the coast of Santa Barbara resulted in a spill of 4.2 million gallons of crude oil into the ocean and onto nearby shores. This disaster is considered to have been a catalyst for the modern environmental movement.
In 1971, 800,000 gallons of bunker fuel spilled in San Francisco Bay, with a devastating impact on local species.
In Huntington Beach in 1990, the American Trader oil tanker spilled more than 416,000 gallons of crude oil, killing an estimated 3,400 birds.
In 2007, a container ship struck the Bay Bridge and spilled 58,000 gallons of bunker fuel into San Francisco Bay.
On May 19, 2015 a crude oil pipeline spilled 100,000 gallons into the ocean at Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County.
And here is the commission’s explanation of why an oil spill can be so devastating to birds and other wildlife, and make seafood unfit for human consumption.
“Oil in the water can be deadly for animals. Oil is toxic when ingested. When birds get oil on their feathers, it impairs the important waterproofing that is necessary to keep a bird warm. A bird may also lose its ability to float in the water or to fly if it is covered in oil. Oiled marine mammals may suffer from hypothermia. Oil may cause reproductive problems and genetic abnormalities in fish. Contaminants may enter the food chain and result in seafood that is unfit for people to eat.”
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