The oil spill off the Orange County coastline is continuing to expand as the disaster heads into its third day of response, moving further south as officials scramble to close beaches and handle the environmental impacts.
Journalists at Monday’s press conference sought to understand the cause of the oil line leak, asking about a potential ship anchor. Officials said that was just one of many potential triggers and that it was too early to identify the cause.
Amplify Energy CEO Martyn Willsher on Monday said that the company has been using remotely operated vehicles underwater to try to find the source of the leak. Now that the company has found a possible source, they plan to send down divers to confirm before starting repairs.
OC Oil Spill
- 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
Questions on how and when the spill started are still up in the air, and officials have shut down the pipeline but do not know where the leak originated. The last estimates on the spill’s size put it at over 126,000 gallons as of early Sunday morning, at which point the pipeline was still leaking. There has been no update as to the total size of the spill since then, but the pipeline has been shut off.
So far, the unified task force led by the Coast Guard had fished out 3,250 gallons of oil as of 8 a.m. Monday. Fourteen boats, four aircraft and three shoreline assessment teams were dispatched, and 5,360 feet of boom was put out to block as much oil as possible from reaching the coast according to Sunday press releases.
The first reports of a spill made it to public officials just after 9 a.m. on Saturday, but residents near the beach say they smelled the tar as early as Friday evening.
As of Monday morning, Huntington Beach and the Huntington State Beach remained closed, with Mayor Kim Carr announcing at a press conference yesterday she’s heard estimates of a “few weeks to a few months,” for how long they’ll be shut down.
Laguna Beach and Crystal Cove State Beach also announced they would be closing their shorelines on Sunday night.
Additional parks were also closed throughout Laguna Beach including all the beaches operated by the county: Aliso Beach, Laguna Royale, Tablerock Beach, Thousand Steps Beach and West Street Beach.
The only waterfront remaining open in the impacted area is Newport Beach, where city officials are asking people to stay out of the water but beaches remain open even after oil began rolling in on the shoreline early yesterday morning.
The harbor remained open for business until Monday morning, when officials closed it to help prevent any oil from entering the harbor. No oil has come into the harbor yet, and boats can still operate in the confines of the harbor.
“The idea of an environmental disaster like this is you want to contain the spread, so having vessels that are not involved in the response potentially in the contaminant is only spreading it,” said Linda Bui, a professor of environmental services at Louisiana State University who’s also studied the Bolsa Chica Wetlands area that’s under threat before the harbor was closed.
“If I were them, I’d operate under extreme caution and my opinion is they’re not.”Linda Bui, a professor of environmental services at Louisiana State University
Bui’s concerns were also shared yesterday by Dr. Clayton Chau, director of the Orange County Public Health Care Agency.
“Do not swim, surf or exercise near the spill,” Chau said, adding the oil is toxic to the touch and in the air. The HCA also issued a health advisory saying anyone with any of the following symptoms should visit their family physician.
- Skin, eye, nose and throat irritation
- Upset stomach
- Cough or shortness of breath
Residents have already taken to social media to share the impacts of the spill, with some saying they’ve sealed up their house entirely and can still smell it.
Yesterday, the only affected cities where recovery was focused were Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. But late last night, officials announced the oil was moving further south, affecting a longer strip of the Orange County coastline all the way to Dana Point.
Long Beach officials announced they were monitoring the situation on Monday morning, but that beaches would remain open until further notice.
Fisheries are closed all the way from Huntington Beach through Dana Point Harbor.
The Huntington Beach City Council called a special meeting for Monday night at 6 p.m., where the council is set to discuss declaring a state of emergency over the oil spill.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.