Oil company says pipeline shut down after leak
HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. – One of the largest oil spills in recent Southern California history fouled popular beaches that could end up closed for months as crews scrambled Sunday to contain the crude before it spread further into protected wetlands.
Divers were trying to determine where and why the leak occurred, but the flow of oil was stopped late Saturday from the pipeline that runs under the ocean off Huntington Beach, according to the head of the company that operates the line.
At least 126,000 gallons of crude spilled into the waters off Orange County starting late Friday or early Saturday when boaters began reporting a sheen in the water, officials said.
“I don’t expect it to be more. That’s the capacity of the entire pipeline,” said Amplify Energy CEO Martyn Willsher. He said the pipeline was suctioned out and dozens of nearby oil platforms operated by Amplify were shut down.
It was one of the largest oil spills in recent Southern California history, fouling the strand in Huntington Beach, the town known as Surf City USA. Crews scrambled to contain the crude before it spread further into protected wetlands.
Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said the city’s famous beaches could remain closed for weeks or even months.
“In a year that has been filled with incredibly challenging issues this oil spill constitutes one of the most devastating situations that our community has dealt with in decades,” Carr said. “We are doing everything in our power to protect the health and safety of our residents, our visitors and our natural habitats.”
The oil created a miles-wide sheen in the ocean and washed ashore in sticky, black globules.
Some birds and fish were caught in the muck and killed, said Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley. But the U.S. Coast Guard said there was a report of just one ruddy duck that was covered in oil and receiving veterinary care. “Other reports of oiled wildlife are being investigated,” the Coast Guard said in a statement.
Crews led by the Coast Guard deployed skimmers and some 3,700 feet of floating barriers known as booms to try to stop further incursion into areas including Talbert Marsh, a 25-acre wetland in Huntington Beach, officials said.
The oil will likely continue to approach the Orange County coast, including Newport Beach to the south, over the next few days, officials said.
The closure included all of Huntington Beach, from the city’s north edge about 6 miles south to the Santa Ana River jetty. The shutdown came amid summerlike weather that would have brought big crowds to the wide strand for volleyball, swimming and surfing. Yellow caution tape was strung between lifeguard towers to keep people away.
Officials canceled the final day of the annual Pacific Air Show that typically draws tens of thousands of spectators to Huntington Beach, a city of about 199,000 residents about 30 miles south of downtown Los Angeles. The show featured flyovers by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.