Huntington Beach officials declared the crude oil spill off the Orange County coast of an emergency Monday night — the second active emergency in the county alongside the coronavirus pandemic.

OC Oil Spill

Latest Figures
  • Authorities now estimate a spill size range between 25,000 gallons to a maximum of 131,000 gallons
  • 5,544 gallons of oily water retrieved
  • Approximately 172,500 pounds of oily debris has been recovered from shorelines
  • 14,060 feet of boom laid to try to curb oil spread
  • More than 900 people on the ground in cleanup effort
  • General questions: 714-374-1702
  • Do not approach affected wildlife, call in a report: 877-823-6926
  • Assist with animals: 714-374-5587
  • Help with cleanups: 714-374-1702
  • File a claim: 866-985-8366

Two days after the oil spill went public, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared an emergency late Monday night and said help is on the way.

Huntington Beach City Council members voted 5-0 to approve the emergency declaration at a special meeting Monday, before the state emergency was called. Councilmen Erik Peterson and Mike Posey were absent from the meeting.

“It’s so important to protect everything including our coasts, but also our businesses,” said Councilwoman Natalie Moser. “Getting this emergency declaration there kind of just helps to put a period in this and states that this is an emergency right now and we want all the resources that are available to us as well.” 

City Manager Oliver Chi said at the meeting the county was also looking to declare a countywide emergency. 

The emergency declaration is listed on the agenda for the Orange County Supervisors meeting today at 9:00 a.m.


Huntington Beach council members will also discuss a potential lawsuit over the spill in the closed session of their regular meeting Tuesday.

“The council is set to discuss what legal actions, if any, the city should consider, given the scale and extent of the oil spill and the impact the incident has had on our community,” Chi said in a text message Monday.

During the Monday meeting, Chi provided a timeline of events since reports of the spill first came up on Saturday. 

He also said the latest estimates of the size of the spill are around 144,000 gallons as of Monday.

“That’s an updated number that was confirmed by all reporting parties today,” he said at the meeting.

The city has also launched an oil spill hotline and will put out recaps on the situation everyday through social media. 

The city has also launched an oil spill hotline and will post delay recaps on the situation through social media. 

There will also be a page on the city website dedicated to the spill, according to Chi.

Members of the city’s environmental board spoke at Monday’s meeting and offered their assistance.

KC Fockler, a board member and a Surfrider representative, called on the council to consider a resolution opposing any new offshore drilling off the coast of California, specifically Huntington Beach.

“This recent spill proves that accidents will happen and it’s not a question of if but a question of when,” he said. 

State Senator Dave Min also showed up to the meeting and said it was about time to get rid of offshore drilling completely.

“We’re exploring our options right now in the state as far as what we can do to end oil drilling in our coastline, because the cost benefit clearly is not worth it. We see something like this happen every five to 10 years,” he said. “This has to stop.”


So far, Huntington Beach is the only city in the county to declare an emergency on the oil spill that has moved south and closed beaches throughout the county.

Other coastal cities like Laguna Beach, San Clemente and Dana Point have not convened a special meeting on the spill, but are set to have their regular council meetings Tuesday evening.

As of Monday night, city officials said the spill was moving south impacting Newport Beach and Laguna Beach and heading towards Dana Point.

Some biologists warned Voice of OC Monday that the air might not be safe to breathe.

Chi said the oil that spilled has been modified with a higher level of volatile organic compounds.

“You will be smelling this product as this situation continues to evolve,” he said, later adding that the situation is improving

[Read: How Safe is Orange County’s Air for Residents to Breathe as Crude Oil Spills Ashore?]

On Monday, South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) officials said they deployed mobile air quality monitoring systems along the coast.


Despite this, school districts in cities along Orange County’s coast will continue to keep schools open including Newport-Mesa Unified School District and the Ocean View School District.

Ocean View District Trustee Gina Clayton-Tarvin said she has not heard of students or staff reporting any smell from the spill at any of the schools in Monday phone interview.

“At this point, I have not had any reports from our school sites, about any kind of odor,” she said.

Adriana Angulo, a spokeswoman for the Huntington Beach City School District, said while schools remain open the district is monitoring the air quality which she described as being at an acceptable level.

In a follow up email, she said the district is monitoring for any potential impacts the spill could have on its schools.

“Outdoor school activities will continue to take place on a regular schedule. Additionally, we’ve contacted the Orange County Public Health Department to ensure we are provided any updated safety guidelines,” Angulo wrote in the email.

Hayley Berbower, a spokesperson for the Huntington Beach Union High School District, said in an email that schools are currently operating as normal but the spill has impacted the district’s surf classes.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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