HUNTINGTON BEACH, CALIF. » Crews on the water and on shore worked feverishly Sunday to limit environmental damage from one of the largest oil spills in recent California history, caused by a suspected leak in an underwater pipeline that fouled the sands of famed Huntington Beach and could keep the beaches there closed for weeks or longer.
Booms were deployed on the ocean surface to try to contain the oil while divers sought to determine where and why the leak occurred. On land there was a race to find animals harmed by the oil and to keep the spill from harming any more sensitive marshland.
An estimated 126,000 gallons of heavy crude leaked into the waters off Orange County starting late Friday or early Saturday, when boaters began reporting a sheen in the water, officials said. The pipeline and operations at three offshore platforms owned by Houston- based Amplify Energy Corp. were shut down Saturday night, CEO Martyn Willsher said.
He said the 17.5-mile pipeline that is 80 to 100 feet below the surface was suctioned out so no more oil would spill as the location of the leak was being investigated.
Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said the beaches of the community nicknamed “Surf City” could remain closed for weeks or even months. 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 died, Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley said. But by early afternoon Saturday, the U.S. Coast Guard said there so far was 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 Guarddeployed skimmers laid some 3,700 feet of floating barriers known as booms to try to stop more oil from seeping into areas including Talbert Marsh, a 25-acre wetland officials said.
A petroleum stench permeated the air throughout the area. “You get the taste in the mouth just from the vapors in the air,” Foley said.
— The Associated Press