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Pipeline spills crude oil onto California's beaches

Officials in California have said they contained the spread of thousands of gallons of oil that flowed into the Pacific after a pipeline rupture. But concern remains for the welfare of the region's marine wildlife.

A burst pipeline spilled an estimated 79,500 liters (21,000 gallons) of oil into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California on Tuesday. The spill reached parts of the state's beaches near the city of Santa Barbara. The US Coast Guard reported that it has managed to contain the oil slick.

Emergency manager for Santa Barbara County Richard Abrams said the US Coast Guard, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Santa Barbara County were all assisting on the clean-up.

"We haven't seen any reports of impacts on wildlife, but it is in the water so it is impacting the environment," Abrams said.

Oil-stained beaches

The slick had extended at least 6.4 kilometers (4 miles) when the incident initially occurred, extending up to 46 meters into the water. Officials said they believed the slick was contained, but added that there was no immediate estimate on how long clean-up efforts might take. Nonprofit organizations have also joined in on the attempts to neutralize the effects of the spill, trying to

protect local wildlife

.

Oil slick near Santa Barbara

Winds may carry the current slick further south

The pipeline, which runs along the scenic California coastline, burst near Refugio State Beach, about 32 kilometers northwest of downtown Santa Barbara. The particular stretch of coastline hosts several oil rigs, causing environmental scares on a frequent basis. A large oil slick occurred on the same section of the California seaboard in 1969 when several hundred thousand gallons of oil had spilled into the sea, making it one of the largest spills in US history at the time.

Cause undetermined

Plains All American Pipeline was responsible for the pipeline, a US Coast Guard spokeswoman said. The cause of the rupture has not been determined, and it remains unclear to what extent the company may been involved in the spill. Plains has supplied clean-up teams to address the aftermath of the oil slick.

Plains said it shut down the flow of crude oil in the pipeline following the incident, initiating its emergency response procedures.

"Plains deeply regrets this release has occurred and is making every effort to limit its environmental impact," the company said in a statement. "Our focus remains on ensuring the safety of all involved."

A popular destination with campers, Refugio State Beach was closed following the spill.

ss/sms (Reuters, AP)

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