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Oil spill hits California beaches after pipeline breach

October 3, 2021

An oil spill in Southern California closed beaches and led authorities to cancel the last day of the Pacific Air Show. At least 126,000 gallons (476,910 liters) of oil spilled off the coast of Orange County.

Oil washed up on Huntington Beach Sunday
Oil washed up on Huntington Beach SundayImage: Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP/picture alliance

An oil spill polluted waters of the Pacific Ocean south of Los Angeles, California, Sunday after what was believed to be an oil rig pipeline breach.

Authorities closed beaches from Huntington Beach to Santa Ana as crews worked to contain the environmental damage.

California State Senator Dave Min said Sunday efforts to contain the spill came too late. 

"Unfortunately, the oil spill has reached our wetlands in Huntington Beach, home of many endangered species. This is clearly an environmental catastrophe." 

What is known about the impact?

Kim Carr, the mayor of Huntington Beach, told reporters Sunday that an oil slick has spread covering 13 square miles of the Pacific Ocean since it was first reported on Saturday morning.

The oil trashed popular beaches and destroyed wildlife, such as birds and fish. The US Coast Guard surveilled the damage by air and worked with local and state officials to contain the damage.

Approximately four miles (6.4 kilometers) of coastline remained closed. The final day of the Pacific Air Show, which normally draws thousands to Huntington Beach, was also called off as crews worked to assess and contain the damage.

In a statement, the city of Huntington Beach said at least 126,000 gallons (98,420 liters) of oil contaminated the waters off the coast of Orange County.

"The spill has significantly affected Huntington Beach, with substantial ecological impacts occurring at the beach and at the Huntington Beach Wetlands," the statement read.

The Coast Guard said it has deployed skimmers and floating barriers known as booms to prevent further encroachment into the wetlands and the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve


Company says leak stopped

Amplify Energy, the owner of the pipeline believed to be the source of the spill, said Sunday afternoon that the line had been shut off, and the remaining oil sucked out. 

Divers are working to determine exactly where and how the leak happened, according to CEO Martyn Willsher. The CEO added that the amount of oil spilled will not exceed 126,000 gallons. 

The pipeline runs from an offshore oil platform to the coast.

Huntington Beach is a city of almost 200,000 residents approximately 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of downtown Los Angeles.

ar/wmr,aw (AP, Reuters)