HUNTINGTON BEACH (CBSLA) – A massive oil spill believed to be from a pipeline leak reached Huntington Beach on Sunday, leading to a shutdown and causing the cancellation of the third day of the Pacific Airshow.
Authorities say 126,000 gallons of oil leaked from the Elly offshore oil rig on Saturday and began to wash up in Orange County and coastal waters. The oil was believed to have leaked from a pipeline burst and was termed a “potential ecological disaster,” CBSLA’s Joy Benedict reported.
The oil spill affected nearly six miles from Huntington Beach pier to Balboa pier and led to the closure of the beach from Santa Ana River jetty to Huntington Beach Pier.
Fourteen boats conducted oil extraction operations on Sunday afternoon. Three Coast Guard boats have established a safety zone at 1000 meters around boats with oil spills. Four aircraft were sent for overflight assessments. The coastal response was conducted by 105 government agency personnel.
“The beaches themselves will be closed, the coastline will be closed, because they have to make sure they have space for cleaning and so we have to make sure the beaches are clear so we can get people here as quickly as possible. possible,” Foley added.
Foley said the pipeline was still believed to be leaking, but the crew was fixing it a few hours ago.
“We are aware that oil has reached the beach here in Huntington Beach and it also appears that oil has infiltrated the Talbert Marsh,” Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said.
The oil rig started leaking Friday and was reported by lifeguards who reported smelling significant oil odors in the area. Crews stayed on site overnight Sunday to assist with cleanup, when dead birds and fish covered in oil washed ashore.
“As we recognize the gravity of this situation, we recognize how serious this is, and we are and will continue to fight this with all our collective means to ensure this does not become a major environmental disaster here in our community,” said Councilman Cottie Petrie -Norris of Orange County.
Foley said on Sunday that Huntington Beach has told her that wildlife in Talbert’s wetlands has been “dramatically degraded.”
“The wildlife is dying. It’s very sad. We have reports of dead animals along the coast, washing up on shore at Huntington Beach State Beach, as well as wildlife in the swamp and wetlands dying out,” Foley said.
The last day of the Pacific Airshow was canceled due to the spill on Sunday.
“The air show has been canceled,” said OC supervisor Katrina Foley. “That’s a shame. I was going to go and I’m disappointed, like all 1.5 million other people who were planning to go today, but we just can’t let the air show go ahead and I know the organizers were very cooperative, they know it is difficult to clean up with all the people.”
Elsewhere, in Newport Beach, residents and visitors were urged to avoid contact with ocean water and oily sections of the beach, which would remain open with a water advisory. Although no hard shutdown was reported, a soft shutdown remained from Tower 44 to the Santa Ana River jetty. The public was begged to stay out of the water.
“Unfortunately, the magnitude and potential impact of this oil spill makes it imperative that people stay out of the water and avoid contact with the oil,” said Newport Beach Mayor Brad Avery. “The city’s top priority is to ensure the safety of our residents and visitors during the cleanup.”
“This oil spill is a tragic reminder that offshore drilling is a devastating threat to our coast and wildlife,” said Miyoko Sakashita, director of the Oceans program at the Center for Biological Diversity. “I’ve seen the aging oil rigs at Huntington Beach up close and I know it’s time to dismantle these time bombs. Even after fines and criminal charges, the oil industry is still leaking into California’s coastal waters because these companies are simply unable to operate safely. The only solution is to shut down this dirty business.”
State rescue services said at least one contaminated ruddy duck was receiving medical care, while local wildlife rescue groups were mobilizing to help.
“We have all our gear on hand, including masks and goggles for our staff,” said Debbie McGuire, director of the Wetlands & Wildlife Center in Huntington Beach. told the OC Register. “We also have IV fluids ready to stabilize the animals.” The center received at least five birds from the spill on Sunday, she said.
The Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach also made its staff and facilities available as needed.
Officials from Laguna Beach closed all beaches in the city from 9 p.m. Sunday due to the oil spill.
UPDATE: City of Laguna Beach will close all beaches at 9pm effective tonight, Sunday, October 3, 2021. City is requesting that all persons stay clear of the beach and pay close attention to any beach closures or warning signs. Click https://t.co/tihxXA6EwN for more. pic.twitter.com/d0xOFwt0xD
— City of Laguna Beach (@lagunabeachgov) October 4, 2021
Long Beach officials said their beaches and swimming areas were not affected by the spill as the currents moved south from Huntington Beach.
The spill was reminiscent of another ecological disaster decades ago. An estimated 3,400 birds were killed when the US oil tanker Trader ran over its anchor and pierced the hull on February 7, 1990, spilling an estimated 416,600 gallons of crude oil off the coast of Huntington Beach.
As a result of the spill, the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center was established on March 31, 1998 on Pacific Coast Highway 21900 to help injured and orphaned animals, including oil-soiled birds, according to the DFW. A makeshift facility at that site treated birds injured in the 1990 spill, according to the center’s website.
MORE NEWS: Man dies in Stevenson Ranch shooting
The cause of the leak was investigated. In the meantime, the public was urged to report all affected wildlife by calling 1-877-823-6826.