Massive oil spill in California “a potential ecological disaster”

FAN Editor

Cleanup crews are scrambling to contain a massive oil spill in Southern California’s “Surf City.” The oil slick, covering about 13 square miles, has forced beaches to close and put wildlife in grave danger.

Thick pockets of sludge continue to wash up along some of Southern California’s most popular beaches Monday morning, coating everything from the sand to the wildlife.

Correspondent Lilia Luciano reports that as crews try to minimize the damage, teams are racing to save wildlife.

“The smell hits you, and there is just gunk everywhere,” said beachgoer Julia Watanabe.

oil-spill-gunk.jpg
Sludge washing ashore at Huntington Beach, Calif.  CBS News

At least 126,000 gallons of oil began pouring into the Pacific Ocean over the weekend from an underwater pipeline about 4.5 miles offshore, sending a sheen of oil from Huntington Beach to Dana Point Harbor.

“We are in the midst of a potential ecological disaster,” said Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr.

Oil Spill Washes Up On California Beaches
Oil from a spill from an offshore rig floats in the water near the inlet to Talbert Marsh Wetlands in Huntington Beach, Calif., Sunday, October 3, 2021. Leonard Ortiz/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Amplify Energy, which owns the pipeline, shut the line down and suctioned out the remaining oil. The company’s CEO, Martyn Willsher, also pledged full cooperation with the cleanup effort. “We are investigating the source and potential cause of this incident,” he said.

Officials have deployed more than 2,000 feet of protective booms and skimming equipment to try to slow the spread of the oil and prevent any further damage to sensitive marshlands.

Major oil spill in Huntington Beach
Environmental cleanup workers clean up the ecologically sensitive Talbert Marsh as a major oil spill washes ashore in Huntington Beach Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Luciano asked Victor Leipzig, conservation director of the Sea & Sage Audubon Society, “How vulnerable is this area, environmentally speaking?”

“This is one of the most important stretches of coastline in Orange County, and possibly all of Southern California,” Leipzig replied.

He said the disaster comes at a critical time, as several different species of seabirds migrate to the area for the winter.

“The spill is only a few hours old,” Leipzig said. “And so, how many birds or other wildlife are going to be impacted, what impact it’s going to have on vegetation in the marshes along the coast, is still yet to be seen.”

There’s also an important economic impact to the area: The beaches are now closed due to the hazard and for the cleanup. But the mayor said they could remain closed for weeks, even months. That could severely affect the businesses in the area that depend on beachgoers to survive. 

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