UNITED STATES. California: A large oil spill off the California coast began washing ashore at Huntington Beach over the weekend after an oil rig pipeline was breached, devastating some of the local wildlife, officials said.
An estimated 3,000 barrels’ (126,000 gallons) worth of oil gushed, spreading about 30 square kilometres (13 square miles) of the Pacific Ocean since it was first reported on Saturday, according to Katrina Foley, the Orange County supervisor.
“We’ve started to find dead birds and fish washing up on the shore,” Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley said on Sunday.
“The oil has infiltrated the entirety of the (Talbert) Wetlands. There’s significant impacts to wildlife there,” she said. “These are wetlands that we’ve been working with the Army Corps of Engineers, with the Land Trust, with all the community wildlife partners to make sure to create this beautiful, natural habitat for decades. And now in just a day, it’s completely destroyed.”
“The impact to the environment is irreversible,” she said in a statement. She said the spill was caused by a breach connected to the Elly oil rig and stretched from the Huntington Beach Pier down to Newport Beach, a stretch of coast south of Los Angeles that is popular with surfers and sunbathers.
A petroleum stench permeated the air throughout the area. “You get the taste in the mouth just from the vapours in the air,” she said.
A total of 1,218 gallons of oily water mixture have been recovered from the spill, the United States Coast Guard said in a statement.
“This response is currently a 24/7 operation and response efforts are scheduled to continue until federal and state officials determine that the response to the crude oil spill is complete,” the USCG statement read.
The USCG, working with local and state agencies, flew planes to assess the spill and had hired contractors to clean it up.
The pipeline is owned by the Houston-based oil and gas company Amplify Energy, its president and CEO Martyn Willsher said at a news conference on Sunday afternoon.
Willsher said his company notified the Coast Guard Saturday morning when employees were conducting a line inspection and they noticed a sheen in the water.
“It’s probably been leaking longer than we know,” Foley told CNN on Sunday.
Huntington Beach officials cancelled the final day of the Pacific Airshow and are encouraging people to stay away from the Santa Ana River Trail, Talbert Park and Talbert Marsh areas and the beaches in the impacted areas to prevent contact with potentially toxic oiled areas.
Officials said they were investigating the cause of the spill and the type of oil involved.