A massive oil spill off the coast of Southern California fouled beaches and forced cancellation of a popular air show as authorities raced to minimize the ecological damage.
Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley tweeted Sunday that oil had begun washing ashore in Huntington Beach, 30 miles south of downtown Los Angeles. Foley blamed a pipeline breach linked to an oil rig about 5 miles off the coast.
“We’ve started to find dead birds & fish washing up on the shore,” she tweeted.
Huntington Beach Police spokeswoman Jennifer Carey said 126,000 gallons of oil had created a spill almost 6 nautical miles long. Carrey warned of “substantial ecological impacts” for the beach and wetlands. About 4 miles of coastline were closed to the public.
“Due to the toxicity of the spill, the city is asking that all individuals remain clear of the beach and avoid coming into contact with oiled areas,” she said in a statement.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s spill response team was aiding the cleanup effort. Details on the leak were not released. Beta Offshore, which operates three offshore platforms south of Long Beach, was on the scene.
Carrey said the leak had been patched but may not have been completely stopped.
Officials canceled the final day of the annual Pacific Air Show that typically draws thousands of spectators to Huntington Beach, a city of 200,000 people.
“The size of the spill demanded prompt and aggressive action,” Carrey said. “Minimizing damage and impacts to our city’s sensitive wetlands and marine environment are of the utmost importance.”
The Coast Guard was leading the spill response, saying details on the cause of the spill were under investigation.
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The Coast Guard said it received a report of an oil sheen Saturday morning. Aircraft were sent up to view the breadth of the spill, and the Oiled Wildlife Care Network was monitoring for tainted wildlife. Officials urged locals not to touch oiled wildlife.
“Trained spill response contractors are working to clean up oil. Public volunteers are not needed and could hinder response efforts,” the Coast Guard said. “We request that members of the public stay away from the area.”
Jacqueline Savitz, chief policy officer at the environmental group Oceana, said It’s time for President Joe Biden to deliver on his campaign promise to end offshore drilling.
“When we drill, we spill,” Savitz said. “It’s well past time to prevent future oil spills by permanently protecting our coasts.”