Massive oil spill off Orange County coast closes beaches, Pacific Airshow

A massive oil spill off the coast of Orange County has led to the closure of beachfront areas from Huntington Beach Pier to Newport Beach, city officials announced Sunday morning.

The smooth one, that was first reported on Saturday afternoon, would come from a pipeline leak connected to an offshore oil platform known as Elly that seeped into nearby Huntington Beach, including in Talbert Marsh, which is home to about 90 species of birds, according to the Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy.

Officials said Sunday they measured a 5.8-mile oil plume running from Huntington Beach Pier to Newport Beach, and reportedly said “about 13 square miles in size.”

“Given the impact of the oil spill, the decision has been made by both the city and the state to close off the ocean from the pier to the Santa Ana River jetty,” officials said.

Authorities are urging people to avoid the beach areas around Huntington Beach and Newport Beach.

“The spill has significantly affected Huntington Beach, with significant ecological impacts on the beach and in the Huntington Beach Wetlands,” officials said in a statement.

The oil spill also led to the cancellation of the last day of the Great Pacific Air Show. Officials say the decision to cancel the popular event was made so that the city, along with the US Coast Guard and government agencies, could focus on cleaning up and investigating the 126,000-gallon oil spill.

“In order to facilitate cleanup work and given the potential health implications, it has been decided to cancel the last day of the show due to yesterday’s spill,” officials said in a statement. “We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you in advance for your understanding.”

Wesley Meacham, a resident of Irvine, said he and his family woke up at 3 a.m. to see the last day of the air show, only to find out that the event had been cancelled.

“I was quite upset. We woke up at 3 a.m. and got ready to come to the air show,” Meacham said. “We got here and were told it had been canceled due to the oil, and I just thought how unhappy we were with an oil spill the day we were due.”

The 5th annual air show kicked off Friday morning at Huntington Beach Pier and attracted approximately 1.5 million visitors to the beach on Saturday. The event would last through Sunday afternoon.

“The city recognizes the seriousness of the decision to cancel the last day of the iconic Pacific Airshow and the disappointment this decision will cause,” officials said. “However, the need for rapid and intensive intervention efforts requires full and unimpeded access to the marine environment.”

On Sunday morning, Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley told KTLA that oil was still leaking about five miles off the coast of Huntington Beach from the broken pipeline.

“It is still leaking and the party responsible for this is currently working to fix the leak from the pipeline,” said Foley, referring to the Elly platform, operated by Beta Offshore, a Long Beach, Calif., unit of Houston’s Amplify Energy. .

Platform Elly is located in the federal waters of the Coast of Los Angeles County and processes crude oil production from two other platforms. It sits atop a large crude oil reservoir known as the Beta Field, which lies in waters overseen by the United States Department of the Interior.

Foley urged people to avoid water activities and stay away from the coast.

“Please don’t go into the water. I see people are still fishing here,” Foley said. “This is a toxic area. You shouldn’t be fishing here and we have to stay at least 15 meters from the shore.’

Foley added that the county has received reports of fish and birds washing up dead on the shore.

“We’re asking people not to go to the beach and not touch the animals… because it’s poisonous,” Foley said.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials are asking residents not to attempt to help the animals affected by the oil spill and to report any animal sightings to the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at 877-823-6926.


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